Ted Kaczynski Book Projects


I’m going to try and get two books by Kaczynski published, one solely written by him and another co-written by him. So, I’m looking for volunteers to help, if you like the idea and have time to help, please let me know 🙂


Truth versus Lies article

1. Truth versus Lies

Ted Kaczynski finished writing a book in 1999 critiquing all the media representations of his life called ‘Truth versus Lies’:

“During the media frenzy that came to be known as ‘Club Ted,’ a report surfaced that the accused Unabomber was writing a second manifesto. He was in fact at work on this compelling book that deftly treads the line between eloquent memoir and uncompromising defense. This intriguing artifact is Ted Kaczynski’s attempt to tell the other side of the tale spun by his family, who told the world he was insane to save him from the death penalty. It is also an outspoken rebuttal of the lies told by the many-media-charmed acquaintances and opportunistic strangers who surfaced to offer their stories in exchange for fifteen minutes of fame.”

Many publishers turned him down, Context Books almost printed a slightly edited version, but Ted rejected this proposal. I think the publisher was worried about copyright e.g. quoting some sources in their entirety and libel e.g. Ted calling his brother, David, “a Judas Iscariot (who) … doesn’t even have enough courage to go hang himself.”

In 2002 he donated a draft copy of the book which Context Books made to the University of Michigan along with a tonne of journals, letters and other material which the book references.

So, I copied the text into a google document and started working on cleaning up the scanning errors with 3 other people:

We’ve almost finished this now, so soon we can put it up on the anarchist library and places.

Next, we want to decide together on a few changes we’d like to suggest to Kaczynski, which will give the book a higher chance of getting a book publisher to mass print it, without risking libel and copyright. Ideally we could just black out the parts we can’t print, and then write an article on the missing parts and where to find the unedited version:

  • 1. Truth versus Lies – 1C. Book publisher version

Finally, we’ll create a document which is an automatic text comparison between documents 1A and 1B for transparency:

  • 1. Truth versus Lies – 1D. Photocopy of book; text comparison

And a document discussing the pros and cons of the few changes we might want to make between Docs 1B and 1C:


2. Unfinished Autobiography

As well, I’m condensing the book down to where Ted is just talking about his memories and how he felt about them and using the text along with other material for two books:

A biography called ‘The Unfinished Autobiography of Ted Kaczynski a.k.a. The Unabomber’.

And a fictional novel called something like ‘The Imagined Autobiography of Ted Kaczynski …’

I’m mainly writing the second one to just get a clear timeline in my head of what moments Kaczynski finds most significant about his life. So, I’m writing them in two columns alongside each other at first:

And with biography sources, I’m doing tasks like transcribing prison letters and getting tons of writing by and about Kaczynski into an easily browsable catalogue. At some point we can release this separately as something like ‘The Ted Kaczynski Archives’:


kaczynski depictions in motion pictures article

3. Reading material for Kaczynski

Finally, I’ve finished transcribing a bunch of video media on Kaczynski which I’d like to send him as encouragement to write his own autobiography or make any further changes to his book ‘Truth versus Lies’, to get a further clarifying window into his mind as an intriguing case study in political violence:


How you can help

Here are some tasks that I think would be really useful:

  • You can proofread 1. Truth Versus Lies – #1B: Photocopy of book with fixed scanning errors and make sure we haven’t missed any scanning or grammar errors.
  • You can help with discussing potential corrections we might need to make to get a book publisher to mass print the book, but that aren’t too big such that they would distort the original text to a degree that Kaczynski wouldn’t consent to changing when asked – 1. Truth versus Lies – 1E. Book publisher version corrections
  • You can help transcribe prison letters and/or copy any interesting writing by or about Kaczynski which you think might be useful for the autobiography, as well as for a future archive – 2. Unfinished Autobiography – 2D. Biography Sources
  • You can go in person to the University of Michigan Library to see their archive on Kaczynski, to scan or take photographs of new letters and any missing text. The scanned version of Truth versus Lies has a few words where the text is unreadable on pages 34, 35, 37, 39, 61, 144, 145, 173, 204, 216, 218, 220, 231, 232, 233, 239, 242, 244, 544.
  • Finally, you can give your advice and suggestions, which would be greatly appreciated 🙂 

My email is theosladehome@gmail.com, you can email me to discuss ideas, to send me text relating to any of the above and/or you can send the name of your gmail email address and I’ll add you as an editor to any of the documents you like, so that you can help work directly on the google documents. Or if you’re logged into your gmail now, you can go to the page you want to work on and click the ‘request edit access’ button in the top right corner.

As well, I’ve started a reddit group chat and discord channel on my server for anyone who would prefer to discuss using instant messaging as well:



This just started as a hobby project, so I’m not in a position to be able to pay upfront for every hour worked, but I’m happy to talk about percentage revenue sharing or backpaying based on hours contributed if the book sales reach some threshold. Everything will be discussed transparently and if we can’t agree as a group on an end product, then members can always take the writing and develop it however they like in a separate document.

I’ve no idea if the person who was going to print it ever held or still holds sole right to publish Truth versus Lies, or if Kaczynsk will say yes to any corrections needed to avoid libel. I’ve emailed the book publisher person once, but will try again. 

I’d also like to pay royalties to the survivors of Kaczynski’s bombings, I know they’re supposed to receive any money Kaczynski makes as part of a $15 million restitution order, but I’m not sure if he co-writes a book what that means in terms of a percentage. I’ll email the two organisations who have published his work when we’ve finished.


Critical Platforming 

My contributions are made mainly for myself and researchers similarly fascinated by his life with the goal of wanting to make the writing easier to sort and skim through.

I’d like to include a thorough critique of Kaczynski’s philosophy in any publicity we do for the books and in the forward for the biography I’m writing. I’m pro-technological advancement, and against ever physically hurting people unless in a bunch of rare circumstances like if it was; medically in their own interest, in self-defence, in the case of a justified revolutionary war or a survivor-led vigilante action.

Here are some of my past critiques of anti-technology, anti-industrialist, primitivist, anti-civilisation and misanthropic ideologies: 


Howard Ehrlich on Social Anarchism

Howard J. Ehrlich was a sociologist who founded and edited the journal Social Anarchism.

These are clips taken from an interview recorded in February 2011 in Baltimore, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

Here’s a little bit of background on Howard, who passed away on February 2nd, 2015:

Howard Ehrlich, of Baltimore, Maryland, was an American sociologist and anarchist activist. Formerly a professor at University of Iowa, he was co-founder of Research Group One that conducted research on behalf of activist organizations in the US. Subsequently, he co-founded a collective that produced a successful syndicated radio program called the Great Atlantic Radio Conspiracy, a free school, and in 1980 he co-founded a peer-reviewed journal called Social Anarchism, of which he was Editor-in-Chief until his passing.

After years of teaching in higher education, he became the Director of the Prejudice Institute, a sociological research organization that studied ethnoviolence. In his later years, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Dementia.

Ehrlich was the author or editor of the books: “The Best of Social Anarchism”, “Reinventing Anarchy”, “Reinventing Anarchy, Again”, “Hate Crimes and Ethnoviolence: The History, Current Affairs, and Future of Discrimination in America”, “The Social-Psychology of Prejudice”, “Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence”, and “Intergroup Tensions and Ethnoviolence in the Workplace: A Manual for Trainers”.

Howard Ehrlich on Social Anarchism

Full Transcript

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Howard J Ehrlich, I was born in a log cabin in NY. I came to anarchism in a strange way. I was at a peace rally when a group of people waving a black flag ran up to the lectern, yelled some things that were incomprehensible and left. And I turned to the person I was with and said what was that. He said, those were the anarchists. I said, who are they? And he said, you mean you don’t know Marx and Bakunin? Marx and Bakunin I said? I was embarrassed I said. I’ve never heard of Bakunin. And he said, their correspondence is famous. And so I ran to the library to look for the Marx and Bakunin correspondence and there wasn’t any, but in the process I had read an awful lot of anarchism and decided, hey, there was something to this. And that’s sort of how I came to anarchism.

What campaigns do you remember most fondly?

As an anarchist, I think my major work has been in my later years, as a writer and an editor, I’ve edited several anthologies and I am the editor of the magazine of social anarchism.

Earlier, I was strongly involved in the peace movement against the vietnam war, I was a regional traveling organizer for a while and I helped organize what was the national organization called the new university conference one of the more anonymous but really powerful organic anti-war organizations.

How does sociology influence your politics?

I have in my work as an anarchist never been able to forget nor did I want to that I trained as a sociologist and social psychologist and the reason why I mentioned that is that no matter what I look at from a political standpoint i’m also looking at as a social scientist and so I have a very different view I think of both social science and anarchism

What role do socioligists play in the anarchist movement?

The best way I can talk about combining an anarchist perspective with a social science perspective is to talk about what it is I think a radical social scientist ought to be doing I think we can still go about the process of testing hypotheses and building theories but we have to understand that we’re building theories for a reason and that reason is is to build a new and better society and so as a sociologist what I want to do is to test propositions that confirm or disconfirm our way about building a new society.

What is one feature you miss from campaigns in the 60s era?

We compiled reinventing anarchy um as a means of introducing people to the various dimensions of energism and I think we did a good job uh we sold several thousand copies of the of that book but to me the thing that was and is most intriguing is about 10 years later we decided to put out a new edition and not to use things that were more than not use articles that were more than 10 years old so that it would still be quite contemporary in fact 80 of the second anthology was new but the interesting thing about it from a political standpoint is that there were very different books that um the reinventing anarchy again which we called it was deadly serious whereas reinventing anarchy was fun but if you look at the two books side by side you’d see that there were all these cartoons flyers clever little pieces if you look at reinventing anarchy again there was the humor was gone and it and it reflected the times the first in the late 60s and the second 10 years 10 years later and anarchism had couldn’t escape the change in the times from the anti-war activities the mass organizations like sds students for democratic society the new university conference science for the people all of these came together with great humor and good propaganda subsequently uh the propaganda is still there if you want to call it which I think we can but the humor isn’t and I felt there was nothing we could do about it we were trying to represent the field and that’s the way it stood.

How do people react to you being an anarchist?

When I would tell people who asked what is anarchism they’d often laugh. How can you be an anarchist? Anarchists have no organisation and you’re one of the most organised people I know. And I tried to tell them, one of the things about anarchism is that it is a theory of organisation; in fact I argue that anarchism is a theory of organisation, a theory of radical social change…and a personal philosophy. And people have a great deal of difficulty comprehending that. In fact, tell you a story…tells story about how he loaned magazine to woman who kept thinking people were staring at her when she tried to read it…

Of course people always want to joke about anarchism and organisation, but when they see that I’m serious about it, they usually turn it into conversation.

What does anarchism mean to you?

I think it’s important to…look at the various components of this ideology, this set of beliefs we call anarchism, and one is to understand that it’s a way of life…anarchism is a way of life. It’s a way in which we deal with people in terms of how we live, in terms of violence and non-violence, in terms of…stop there.

I believe that…I have to…any anarchist has to…put together anarchism as a way of life, to understand it as a theory of organisation…And as a theory of organisation, people often have a great deal of difficulty with it, because the stereotype of anarchism is of course chaos…not to mention violence. So when you begin to talk about someone who is naïve to the area, those are the two things that come up: how can you be serious, given the violence that anarchists have manifested. And often they’ll point to Berkman and Goldman – Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman – Berkman who thought by assassinating one of the big capitalists of the day, that this would motivate people to join in the anti-capitalist movement. He was of course mistaken, it was not…mumbles.

And then there was the anarchist who shot McKinley. And so these remain, these are sort of the iconic symbols of anarchism; iconic from the standpoint of…of people who are…rejecting the idea of…

When I talk about anarchism as a theory of organisation I let people know that hierarchy and the absence of hierarchy are theories of organisation themselves, and that, nobody laughs when you talk about anarchist…when you talk about organisation from an anarchist standpoint, but…they can’t conceive, they simply can’t conceive of a group, of an organisation, of a city, being run on non-hierarchical principles. Note in the recent Egyptian struggle: none of the commentators talked about this, none of the commentators except maybe Al Jazeera – not sure about that – none of them talked about this as an anarchist-like uprising. It was a spontaneous uprising, it was a mobilising that tried to maintain a non-violent perspective…but anarchism is written out of the dialogue

What role does power play in anarchist philosophy?

I maintain that the central concept of anarchist theory is power. That, um…we need to understand that power is manifest in many different ways, um, for example, class, gender…policing, violence and so on. That…all of these are the, the oppression of women, the oppression of persons by class, these are ways of maintaining power and dominance over them, and that to understand the different theories of anarchism you have to understand the way in which um, power gets played out. And what happens is that a lot of anarchists focus on the dimensions like class and gender to the, I think, mistake of ignoring the higher order construct, namely power.

What’s the main reason we need an anarchist world?

If we believe that people are truly equal, then we need a world that reflects…that kind of…mumbles. That reflects egalitarianism…I know of no political ideology that does this other than anarchism. People will talk about democracy, but typically democracy goes only so far. We need an anarchist world because we won’t, I don’t think we’ll survive, both from a political, a political or economic or ecological standpoint, unless we can deal with each other in a manner that recognises ourselves as being equal, and being equal means that we need to build organisations which are non-hierarchical. Hierarchy is a form of manifestation of power and the worst form of hierarchy is of course bureaucracies.

What is the anarchist critique of majority rule democracy?

Anarchism probably had some of its roots in democratic theory…but…if you’re going to have a society in which a minority of – I’m sorry – in which a majority can determine the relations of people and institutions, that means that somebody’s going to be on top and somebody’s going to be on bottom. And that is antithetical to the notions of anarchism. The…when we’re talking about the economy and building a participatory economy, as opposed to building a capitalist economy, whether we’re talking about voting for somebody for political office as opposed to a collective decision and collective decision-making, democracy simply is still a main way of maintaining power and hierarchy.

What is the anarchist critique of beurocracy?

We need to look at the mechanisms by which people maintain power and control over others. I think that possibly the most violent institutional form is a bureaucracy. It’s violent because it legitimates hierarchy; it’s violent because, um…it tells people that they’re not responsible for their actions. That is to say, one acts of bureaucracy according to the rules of bureaucracy, but the rules of bureaucracy are ones we say, listen, um, you’re not accountable for this, this is the way we do things. So one of the things that happens is that people get socialised into actions and mechanisms which maintain the power base in the society. It also comes about with respect to maintaining levels of discrimination, particularly where race and ethnicity and gender are involved. Discrimination I would say, and I’ve tried to persuade my sociological colleagues, discrimination is the underlying basis of ethno-violence.

Is violence justified in order to bring about an anarchist world?

I think when it comes to violence anarchists are divided…and…I think that’s okay. We don’t have all the answers. But we need, I think, as we build an anarchist theory as a sketch, that’s not to think we have a full-blown theory, we have a sketch of a theory…Sooner or later as a population engages in insurrectionary activities, um, they move in some cases to violence, but, was the Egyptian revolution we just witnessed violent? Well, many people are pointing to it as a non-violent revolution, but, um, both the police, the military and the protesters were doing things that were violent. So I say, what we need to do is to minimise as much as we can the exercise of violence. Um…And understand that has to be the absolute last resort. We can’t build a peaceable society on the basis of violent revolution. I just don’t think that can happen. On the other hand, how we go about building a society of people at peace is something that we have to work at and work at I think, really hard.

What is one example of an important anarchist principle?

Well the first principle, I think, for anarchists, um…is a principle of egalitarianism. We have to, um, be able to build institutions in which hierarchy and, hierarchy and the maldistribution of power are central to organising. I think that we need to learn how to live and work collectively and that collective work is one of the principles that is subsumed under power, that is, once we can, um, minimise, reduce, do away with power differentials, I think we can live a different kind of life.

I think, and excuse me if I’m just sort of random but this is a tough question, um, I think we need to be able to deal with our technology differently. That is to say, we need to build, as Murray Bookchin put it, a liberatory technology of…so for example, um…Wind power or solar may be construed as a liberatory technology, whereas, um, fossil fuel burning plants require a high degree of concentration of, um…dealing with, with resources which won’t last – oil, coal, for example, particularly oil – and nuclear power, which is now being pushed once again, even at the level of the presidency of the US, um, nuclear power is a centralising form of energy and so we need to work on that.

We need to work on dealing economically and to developing a kind of participatory economics in which the people who are affected by economic decisions have a legitimate role in helping to make those decisions.

We probably need to work hard at building…um…We probably need to work hard at building egalitarian institutions. I don’t think…I have a poster upstairs that says there can’t be a revolution without women, or as Mao put it, quoting Mao in an anarchist documentary is ? …women hold up half the sky.

We need to be able to…deal with race and ethnicity in a manner we have not yet been able to do.

How do anarchists make sure their organizations are welcoming to people from all kinds of backgrounds?

When talking about race, ethnicity and so on…People say…that’s the way we were born. That prejudice is an inborn characteristic. And I think they say that, and this is where social science and anarchism intersect, I think they say that because children learn so early the basic dimensions of race and ethnicity. That by the age of three children in most Western societies have already learned some of the basic stereotypes. So it comes so early it deludes us into thinking that it is almost instinctive. Of course at one time what is believed to be instinctive now is a little iffy…How it impacts on anarchism particularly is a fact that…even as anarchists we can’t escape the fact that we live in a racist society, and so everything we do, is coloured by the fact that either one time we act out a stereotype and at another type we act out with due diligence an egalitarian social form. We have to work at…mumbles…we have to work at fighting against racism, prejudice, bigotry, however you want to label it. And I think that one of the ways we do it – and I guess in part this is a principle of anarchist organisation – we need to have systems of internal education. That is, for an anarchist organisation to really survive, they’ve got to be able to come together at regular intervals and literally have, not necessarily an alternative school – although that would be great – but literally have a regular time and place in the everyday activities of the organisation in which one acts out in an egalitarian, non-racist, non-sexist manner. And I think that the failure of many groups, including anarchist groups, to maintain themselves together, is the fact that they have not been able to educate themselves, if you will, as to the basic principles of anarchism.

Take for example something like a food coop. You can bring people together, and anarchists have been involved in food coops and other alternative institutions, you can bring people together and help them purchase food more cheaply. You can bring people together and have them purchase more nutritious food, but unless there’s also an understanding of the whole process of the growing of food, of the processing of food, of the way in which food is distributed around the world, unless you can have that there’s no politics here. And in that regard, anarchists have to maintain their politics upfront.

Why is there so much unproductive infighting within anarchist circles?

There are many different styles of anarchism…and I don’t think that’s bad. I would like to see greater cooperation than there is, but…for example, the class war anarchist versus the anarchist syndicalist versus the social anarchist and so on. All these are different modes of expression which are really trying to do the same thing, namely to build a society based on equality…It…seems to me, many different paths to an anarchist community. As long as we don’t allow ourselves to fight with each other because we’ve chosen a different path, and I think there has been a little bit of that, coming from places where they should have known better. That is to say, um, I don’t see why I can’t live with an anarchist syndicalist, but I know they’re wrong. I don’t see why I can’t live with a class war anarchist, but I think they’re too Marxist. And so I have objections to all but my own variety of social anarchism, which I think is the right path to take, but I certainly will not allow that to assault anarchists who, who want to walk on a different path.

Where did the term social anarchism come from?

I’m not exactly sure where the term social anarchism originated. I think it comes from an Italian work by Giovanni Baldelli, in a book entitled Social Anarchism. We selected the name social anarchism, we spent a lot of time when we were starting up our magazine, and, we selected, we had several choices. One was, we thought of calling it Broccoli – I’m serious! We thought of calling it broccoli because nobody would know what it meant and that would give us the opening to talk about this. We thought of calling ourselves White Rose because there was a collective at that time in Cambridge called Black Rose and the White Rose in Germany…There were already too many roses there. Um…We had some other titles in mind, but we chose social anarchism once one time because it confused people. That is it went, the notion of social anarchism went against the stereotype of anarchism as violent and chaotic and we figured that might make people talk, and it did, it does to this day when I tell people I’m a social anarchist they’re ready to talk about it, assuming they don’t walk away giggling, um…I don’t know of when people started using social anarchism since we adopted it from Baldelli. This was what, 1978 I think, so, and then when Murray Bookchin came out with his book on social anarchism, it had nothing really to do with social anarchism, but it popularised, among anarchists, it popularised the term.

Why do anarchists who are small in number not for now simply spend all their time helping larger organizations succeed?

One of the central mechanisms we have not yet talked about is that of the alternative institution…By alternative institution I mean some institution that deals with a vital resource, that operates under principles of non-hierarchy, anti-authoritarianism if you will, um, that has a process of internal education, and that these, put together, participatory decision-making on all of the issues that, um, are important to the group you’re working with, and in opposition to the straight, narrow, capitalist group presumably you’re opposed to, um, put them all together and you have an entirely different form of organisation. And it’s that organisation that I think is one of the central to building a revolutionary transfer culture. That is, transfer culture in the sense of raising the question, how do we get from here to there? And building alternative institutions I argue is one of those ways that we get from here to there.

Isn’t anarchism simply against human nature?

The response to critics of anarchism who believe that somehow or other hierarchy and violence are part of human nature…the response is two-fold. One is that it, um…there’s no evidence for that. That is to say, um, anything that you can point to and say this is part of human nature, I can point to its contradiction. So that human nature becomes an ideological tool…I can attack you because you’re violating principles of human nature and you can attack me because I don’t know what I’m talking about when I’m saying human nature is, basically good. That human nature is a function of the way in which we raise our children, it’s a function of the way in which we treat each other, um, and it’s a level of abstraction I hate to get caught up in.

How optimistic are you that we will reach an anarchist world?

Well I don’t want to answer a question about how optimistic or pessimistic I am because it depends on what day it is. But I also, um…am willing to say that I don’t want to think in terms of building a world on anarchist principles. I’d like to start out by thinking of building an alternative institutions, by building a community, by building a network of workers in the same area. In other words, um, I want something more modest as a goal than, um…the world in which everybody is wonderful. And furthermore, I have a feeling that if we were able to build an anarchist community we would discover all kinds of things that we didn’t think of before, and so we’d still be building an anarchist community that in fact there’s maybe no end to that.

Saul Newman On Anarchism Today

Saul Newman is a political theorist & post-anarchist.

This is a clip from an interview recorded in London in March 2011, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

Saul Newman On Anarchism Today

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Saul Newman, I teach politics, mostly political theory, here in the Politics Department at the University of London. I have an interest in anarchism, anarchist political theory, have been interested in anarchism for many years actually. And I do quite a lot of research in this area, exploring various aspects of anarchist political theory, try to apply to contemporary radical political struggles. I’ve written a number of books on anarchist, and what I call post-anarchist, theory, which is an attempt to rethink certain central aspects of anarchism.

How did you discover anarchism?

I first discovered anarchism when I was a university student and prior to that time I was a bit interested in Trotskyism, actually. Then I started reading about the Trotskyist and Bolshevik suppression of the anarchists after the Bolshevik revolution 1917. And, you know, I started becoming interested in sort of anarchism as a critique of some of the more authoritarian central aspects of Marxist-Leninism. And, I think the emphasis in anarchist theory on freedom and autonomy and the indispensable nature of freedom along with the quality of which pretty much appealed to me. And so I started looking into anarchism more and exploring it and. To me it seems like the political philosophy which makes the most sense and which I find most appealing.

What is anarchism?

Anarchism is a heterodox political philosophy, by which I mean that it encompasses many different voices and perspectives and positions, but these I think are generally united by an anti-authoritarian ethos, a radical skepticism about the nature of political power, a critique of all authoritarian social and political and economic structures, such as the state, such as capitalist economic relations, such as family relations and patriarchal relations and so on, and a general belief I suppose in the ideals of freedom, autonomy, solidarity and equality.

Isn’t anarchy just chaos and disorder?

Not according to the anarchists. On the contrary, the classical anarchists like Proudhon and Bakunin and Kropotkin argued that chaos in the Hobbesian sense is actually fomented by the state. In other words the state as a centralized political structure is the organisation which creates war and violence and inequality and therefore sows the seeds of chaos and disorder. So, their contention was that a different type of society was possible, and that the best chance for stability and peaceful coexistence would actually be established once the state was actually abolished and replaced with self-governing, autonomous, community-based structures.

Didn’t the 20th century prove socialism can never work?

Anarchism is not socialism of course and I think we have to make a very important distinction here. The experience of socialism during the 20th century of course was symbolised by the disastrous totalitarian regimes that one found in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union which had very little to do with the original conception of socialism, certainly very little to do with Marx’s original conception of communism, which, if we read Marx properly, was actually very close to anarchism. So Marx characterised communism as a society without a state, a society in which state power had withered away or had been transcended, a society of free association where one could get to explore one’s human subjectivity in the fullest sense. So I think it’s quite misleading to talk about socialism in that sense and to look at the experience of the 20th century and to understand statist, bureaucratic, totalitarian structures as socialism as such, even though they obviously drew on certain elements of socialism and Marxism and it’s even more misleading to point to the experience of actual existing socialism or so-called socialism and to associate that with anarchism. Anarchism of course, even though it’s related to socialism, is also quite different and I think probably the most important aspect of anarchism is its very radical critique of what it saw as some of the more authoritarian aspects of socialist thought. So no, I don’t think…the 20th century experience of socialism really tells us much at all about anarchism other than pointing out some of the disastrous mistakes that were made by the Marxist-Leninists.

Why do anarchists tend to focus on the working class?

The working class as the central revolutionary agent is obviously still important. I don’t think we can say the working class has disappeared. I think on the contrary with the crisis of global capitalism more and more people are thrown into the ranks of the underclasses, even in our apparently prosperous capitalist societies, but nevertheless, I think one of the key differences between anarchism and Marxism was that anarchism had a much broader notion of class. For the anarchists like Bakunin for instance, class was not a sort of strictly defined socio-economic demographic, and as a matter of fact Bakunin preferred the term mass to class. The word mass was something which expressed the heterogeneity if you like of the revolutionary subjectivity, and in this mass he included not just members of the proletariat, the industrial proletariat, but also peasants, intellectuals declasse, the lumpenproletariat and various other forms of subjectivity which were not typically included within the traditional conception of the working class as defined by the industrial proletariat. So my answer to that question is that we have to have sort of a broad and heterogeneous conception of what the working class actually is. Many people of course in white collar professions are still exploited, they still work long hours, they still work under terrible conditions doing labour and so on, so I don’t actually think we can restrict the revolutionary agency to the traditional blue-collar worker.

Would anarchism be a more democratic means of organizing society than what we see today?

Obviously anarchism and democracy are in some respects closely related, but I think that once again you have to make a few distinctions here: certainly anarchism has very little to do with formal parliamentary democracy. I think we need to rethink actually what democracy really means. To me, democracy really has nothing to do with representation and with the formal practices and formal rituals of voting and electing representatives and so on. To me this is a kind of a discourse and a ritual which only reaffirms state power. So I think when we talk about democracy and its relation to anarchism we have to think about a different, more radical conception of what democratic politics actually means, and this would be closer to certain forms of direct democracy and consensual decision making rather than formal representative democracy. But certainly there is a relationship, and a very important relationship, between anarchism and democracy as defined by the notions of political autonomy and equality. One of the dangers, one of the tensions, possible tensions, between anarchism and democracy is always the danger of the so-called tyranny of the majority, whereby the majority as defined in terms of popular sovereignty overwhelms or overpowers the wishes and desires and the freedoms of certain minorities, so I think it’s quite useful to reconceptualise democracy through anarchism and to try to sort of think democracy in slightly different ways, ways which avoid the perils of popular sovereignty. So in other words we have to try to balance or reconcile the democratic will with the freedoms and the autonomy of minorities and individuals. Maybe we should think about a democracy of singularities rather than democracy in the classical sense.

Is anarchism a form of liberalism?

There are certain parallels but there are also certain very important differences. I don’t think it’s correct to just see anarchism as a version of liberalism, but nevertheless, anarchism bears certain similarities to it, particularly in terms of the emphasis on freedom, on individual freedom, which has always been one of the central values or core values of classical liberalism. But I think that the main difference lies in the fact that even though classical liberalism values…well actually there’s two differences. The first is that classical liberalism values the individual and individual freedom. It always sees the state as a condition for preserving individual freedom, so classical liberalism is usually based on contractarian theory, whereby we in the state of nature give up or sacrifice our natural rights and freedoms and we inaugurate a sovereign who establishes a system of law and order which is designed to protect my freedom from the freedom and the desires of other people. So the point is that it’s always freedom within certain limits, it’s always freedom which is sort of guaranteed and secured by the state, but the problem with that is that to some degree it’s a logical contradiction because if you have freedom which is secured by the state, then the logic of securatization often works against freedom, and of course we’re seeing this now aren’t we, with the securatization of the neo-liberal state. So I think anarchism is obviously…anarchism claims that individual freedom can only be guaranteed in the absence of the state rather than through the state. The other major difference of course is that classical liberalism is based upon notions of private property and the capitalist free market, which anarchists see as actually working against individual freedom, because private property and capitalism only offers you a very sort of narrow conception of freedom, it’s only freedom for property owners, it’s only the type of consumerist freedom or the freedom of exchange in the marketplace and it only enshrines the rights to exploitation which of course works against the freedom and the autonomy of the majority of people. So let’s say that even though there are certain parallels between classical liberalism and anarchism in terms of the emphasis on individual freedom and the suspicion of the state, anarchism wants to see individual freedom in the absence of the state and in the absence of capitalism and the institution of private property.

How do hierarchies of power work today?

I don’t think today that resistance to power, resistance to state power, resistance to capitalism, can really be expressed with the revolutionary paradigm which characterised not just classical anarchism but also classical Marxism and so on, in which the forces of society were pitted against state power, where state power was visible and identifiable and it was simply a matter of demolishing this kind of political structure, which was seen as oppressive and dominating and exploitative and so on. I think one of the problems is that power today is much more complex, much more decentralized, I mean, where does one actually locate power today, therefore, how does one have a clearly identifiable revolutionary target which is easy to topple or demolish or destroy. I think it’s much harder, I think power is much more dispersed, it’s obviously much more globalised, it’s much more networked. So therefore it seems to me that the whole notion of resistance to power has to be rethought, has to be seen I think in terms of more localised struggles for autonomy or around particular issues, rather than a sort of totalising revolution with a capital R. So yes, post-anarchism certainly points to the way in which resistance to power is much more complicated today; this is something which radicals and revolutionaries and those who resist have to contend with.

What do anarchists like yourself mean when you talk about micro-politics?

By micropolitics I mean not only the localisation of struggles, but also the way in which our subjectivity, in other words who we are, how we identify ourselves, is very closely bound up to the power that we closely resist. So in other words, we have to critically investigate the ways in which we are attached to the power that we claim to resist, the ways in which power bestows upon us a kind of identity. In other words there is a kind of statist structure or a certain kind of authoritarianism in all of us. This is something which people like Wilhelm Reich pointed to, the internalised authoritarianism which makes, well he said this is the kind of thing which makes fascism possible or rather authoritarian political movements and so on. So, what we have to do, I think, is kind of work ourselves out of the bind of power, we have to try to invent or create new ways of living, new practices, new forms of relating to other people which are non-authoritarian. Until we do that, until we sort of work ourselves psychically out of the state, then we’ll always be doomed if you like to reinventing the very forms of power that we claim to oppose.

Isn’t anarchism completely utopian?

There is a utopian dimension to anarchism, certainly, but think this is one of the things which makes…which gives it its radical force. I don’t think that any sort of radical politics worthy of its name can really dispense with the utopian dimension. The point I would say is that utopianism, or the concept of utopia, has to be rethought here. In other words, the idea of setting out a blueprint for a future society, I think that that way of thinking is doomed to disaster. It has a certain sort of totalitarian implication. I think utopia should be seen, on the contrary, as an attempt to sort of think the future within the present. In other words, to actually invent autonomous space and alternative practices, ways of living, ways of relating to other people, alternative conceptions of community within the present, precisely as a way of reflecting upon the very limits of our contemporary society. In other words, we have to, I think, retain some notion that our current society has limits that we can always have a different type of society or a different way of living, but that doesn’t actually involve you know, setting out revolutionary blueprints, what it involves is a certain kind of experimentation with different practices, and to me I think that this is the kind of utopia which is the most important in anarchism.

Why is there so much unproductive infighting on the left?

I remember reading an old slogan, an old anarchist slogan actually, which said something like, with all of the mud that we keep slinging at each other, all of the rocks that we keep on throwing at each other, we could have brought down the state already. I think one of the problems within contemporary anarchism is a certain kind of desire to sort of totalise and rigidify one’s own particular perspective to the exclusion of other perspectives. One finds this quite a lot actually, in many debates amongst anarchists. One also finds this actually with the sort of out and out rejection of, for instance, post-structuralism and other perspectives. Anarchism to me has never been a sort of total unified theory. To me the strength and the originality of anarchism has always lain in its heterodox nature, by which I mean that it has always been open to different voices and articulations and perspectives and so on, and I think that this is what makes anarchism vital and interesting as a political philosophy. So I think the sectarianism one finds in many debates in contemporary anarchism is only damaging it really as a form of politics. Anarchism has to be open to a sort of multitude of different perspectives. It also has to be open to forming relations and even political alliances with people who don’t identify themselves as anarchists. People who, while they might be attempting to live non-authoritarian lives, and might be struggling around certain issues which share a common ground with anarchism, don’t see themselves as anarchists. I think if anarchism closes itself off to this, if it tries to turn itself into a doxa, into some kind of revolutionary orthodoxy, then it really is doomed to irrelevance in our contemporary age.

What are the greatest challenges for anarchism going forward?

So what are the challenges to anarchism today? A number of challenges actually. I think anarchism has to once again make itself relevant to the contemporary struggles of ordinary people around the world. I think it has to, to this end, overcome some of its sectarianism, and open itself up to different perspectives and viewpoints and articulations and so on. Anarchism has to increasingly situate itself upon a sort of global terrain. Of course struggle has become globalised as well as becoming localised as well, so anarchism has to try to understand itself in terms of the horizon of globalization. It obviously has to engage in a variety of different struggles, whether trade union struggles or struggles on behalf of environmentalists or indigenous people or the general struggles for equality and autonomy that one finds around us today. I think also anarchism has to rethink certain tenets of its own theory or its own philosophy. I’m not necessarily suggesting that post-anarchism offers all the answers here, certainly not, but nevertheless I think that anarchism has to rethink the concept of revolution with a capital R, it has to try to, as I see it, dispense with a certain universal meta-narratives which characterise classical anarchism. It also has to see itself as a theory as well as a practice. One of the things that I’m often struck by when I have a look at certain debates about anarchism on the internet for instance, or on chat groups, is the hostility to theory, the hostility to anything which suggests intellectual work. Many people have this idea that anarchism is just simply about smashing the state, it’s got nothing to do with theory, it’s not a philosophy it’s simply a practice. To me I think anarchism has to acknowledge the fact that it is theory, it comes from a certain philosophical tradition, it’s a way of thinking as well as a way of practicing and doing politics and the two are very much interrelated, and I think that there’s certainly a very important role that theory has to play in forming political struggles today. So I think anarchism has to recognise itself today as a theoretical as well as a praxis.

What is post-anarchism?

Post-anarchism is not supposed to mean the end of anarchism or the fact that we’re living in a period after anarchism for instance, in other words it’s not supposed to signify a being-after anarchism, or the exhaustion of anarchism; on the contrary I see post-anarchism as an attempt to rethink and to revitalize certain aspects of the anarchist political philosophy, mostly through post-structuralist theory, through the theoretical interventions of thinkers like Michel Foucault, Deleuze, Jacques Derrida and so on. The main project I suppose of post-anarchism is to try to think about what anarchism means without the deep ontological foundations which I see as characterising classical anarchism. What I mean by that is that if you read the works of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Proudhon, Godwin and various other 19th and 18th century anarchist thinkers, what you find is certain claims about human nature, about human essence, a certain ontology based upon notions of natural law, a certain positivist conception of social relations, so for instance Bakunin and Kropotkin believed that one can take a sort of a scientifically objective view of the world and observe certain natural tendencies at work in social relations which will unfold towards an anarchist society. Kropotkin, for instance, believed that you could find the tendencies towards mutual aid and assistance within animal species, so he had a certain, he drew upon evolutionary biology to explain human behaviour and to point to the elements of solidarity which he claimed were essential to us as human beings. I think to some extent we have to abandon some of these notions. Radical politics generally can no longer rely on this type of foundationalism within human nature, or within the laws of society and so on, so I think anarchism as a theory today has to come to terms with the very instability of identity and the absence of some of these deep ontological foundations and also what Lyotard referred to as the crisis of meta-narratives. So we have to think, in other words, about what anarchism means today in the contemporary world, in a world which can no longer be expressed or summed up in a universal meta-narrative, whether it’s human nature or emancipation or revolution…so that’s what I see the project of post-anarchism as being: the attempt to rethink, to revitalize and to update certain aspects of anarchism while at the same time reaffirming and holding onto what I see as really central to anarchism which is the ethics of equal-liberty, anti-authoritarianism and solidarity.

How optimistic are you that we will ever reach this better world?

I have some optimism and some pessimism here. It seems to me that with the general crisis of global capitalism today, more and more people have become radicalised, more and more people are becoming disenchanted with formal politics, with formal representative politics, many people are seeing the sham that representative democracy represents, or embodies. Many people are seeking alternative forms of politics and so on. I think we can see this in many places. Today for instance, many people are taking to the streets, engaging in protests and other forms of dissident activity and so on, and there’s certainly a very important role that anarchism can play here in informing some of these struggles and allowing people to see their place within these struggles in a slightly different way. Whether we’re actually moving towards a kind of anarchist society, in other words a society without a state, I think…I’m somewhat skeptical about that actually. I don’t there’s any sort of revolutionary telos here, or revolutionary unfolding. There’s nothing inevitable about anarchism and anarchist society to the extent that we can actually think about what that means. It has to be something that is fought for, struggled for, struggled over. So yes, I’m hopeful in some respects, pessimistic in other respects, because I also think that there’s going to be a reaction, and a reaction from the right, not from the left. What we often find of course in times of economic turmoil and recessions and depressions of course isn’t so much a kind of, well not only a resurgence of radical left, but also a resurgence of the radical right, and we can also see this in terms of increasing racism and xenophobia and the hostility towards immigrants and multiculturalism and so on. So I think all these forces and tendencies being generated at the moment in the current climate, there’s obviously nothing inevitable about a sort of anarchist sensibility emerging here, but there are nevertheless certain hopeful signs in certain sort of important respects.

What can each of us do to bring about this better world?

What can anarchists do? A number of things: they have to both think and act, not simply act. They have to think about, I suppose, what anarchism means to the average person, they have to try to perhaps overcome this fear I suppose that people might have about what anarchism actually means; people usually associate it with chaos and instability, the violence of the state of nature. So I think one of the main responsibilities is for anarchists to try to explain what anarchism actually is, or what it really is, and try to sort of communicate this to people who don’t necessarily identify with anarchism, people who might be hostile to the very idea of anarchism. Also, of course, most anarchists are of course involved in various radical political struggles and so on, but obviously there’s a very important role for them to play in politics on the ground and getting involved with social movements and trade unions and community action groups and so on. All of this is happening of course, so it’s going on, but what I’d say is that anarchists have to communicate more effectively about what their political objectives are and try to develop or promote certain non-authoritarian relations and ways of living.

Shachaf Polakow on Anarchists Against The Wall

Shachaf Polakow is a professional photographer, with experience as an organiser with the group Anarchists against the Wall in Palestine.

These are clips taken from an interview recorded in Tel Aviv, Israel, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

Shachaf Polakow on Anarchists Against The Wall

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Shachaf, I’m an Israeli anarchist, I grew up in Israel, mostly in Tel Aviv.

I’ve been involved in activism and from a very young age, since the age of 12 more or less, more in a political way, more in the democratic game in Israel.

I followed the normal route in Israel. I went to the army, I did community service for a year before.

And, after the army I became more and more radical, partially because of my army experience and then more because of the reality of Israeli politics becoming more and more extreme and right wing.

And since 2007, I’ve been active in a lot of Anarchists Against the Wall actions, organizing stuff sometimes. And also a member of activist students collective which is an activist photography collective, where most of us are anarchists as well.

Why did you become an anarchist?

I think the core reason for why I’m an anarchist is the education I had at home where human rights and equal rights between people is one of the basic values that we were raised with in my house.

And, my father left South Africa because of apartheid, my parents were involved in a lot of left organizations in Israel for many years.

Only in recent years I started to call myself an anarchist, but looking back I can see that a lot of my values were anarchist values, ike equality and justice before nations and flags. And very often in Israel, nationality is really important.

So it was not always there, but it was there even before I went into the army and after the army it became stronger, where I start to understand that probably if I would define myself as something it would be an anarchist. And when I became active in Anarchists Against The Wall it was important to me to define myself publicly as an anarchist, just because how anarchists in the world or at least in Israel were being portrayed negatively, so I also defined myself as an anarchist in order to show a positive example.

What is it like to be an anarchist in your culture?

I think with being an anarchist in Israel, the image we have in Israel as of anarchists it’s something very relative to what we did and how the anarchist against the world started, the anarchist movement before wasn’t as strong.

There were parts of left-wing organization that some of the people or some organization concerns have anarchists, but in the early 90s, or late 80s, there weren’t really political anarchist group for quite a while.

And today, for people in Israel it doesn’t really matter if you’re anarchist or radical left, they pretty much hate. Specifically in the last year or so, maybe two years, the nationalist patriotic feelings are getting really high, the propaganda is really based on de-humanizing anything that is pro-Palestinians. And because Anarchists Against The Wall most of our work is towards the Palestinian issue, so you are being demonized. Many times when there are some demonstrations or actions they try to portray that we do it, even if we are not part of it.

Anarchist didn’t used to be a bad word in Israel, it had no meaning for many people, it’s not like some countries that anarchist has a full history behind it and has been demonized or praised, it doesn’t really matter.

I think as political activists in general, we are facing harder and harder times, like legal system supporting the nationalist side of the situation, with more more arrests in demonstrations, they’re trying to pile up more and more legal cases in different ways it’s gonna be illegal gathering it can be trying to stop us going to Palestine and then charging us for going to e to close military zones or places we can’t go.

So, it’s not exactly about it’s anarchism, but it’s easy for them to portray a lot of this pro-Palestinian stuff as anarchist things.

How did Anarchists Against The Wall come about and how did it evolve?

Okay, I’ll start in the beginning of anarchists against the wall is what I heard from different people and this is how I usually introduce anarchists against the wall Israel started to build the apartheid Israeli security fence what however you want to call it in 2002, 2003 was the beginning of it and during the thing it’s around April 2003 there was an activist camp in in the village of Moscow which is in the west bank it’s a Palestinian village it’s a pristine it was a pristine call for solidarity and actions against the world there were Palestinians Israelis and internationals over there there were a lot of direct actions going out from there or a lot of brainstorming and at some point the media wanted to talk with people and the Israelis after some process they find himself as anarchist against the world is how it started since then the group and the members been go some people stayed in the then some people start to focus on different aspects of the struggle, but we mostly are working with with our calls for solidarity from Palestinians this is most of the work we do at least in Palestine which is where we came most of us stuff we do we used to do more stuff also in Israel but also legally it’s a higher cost sometimes and in terms of energy it’s it’s better to believe Palestinians and better and do the solidarity actions demonstrations direct actions than just being in Israel where actually the crowd in the streets don’t care that much like we do have demos and it’s become more frequent recently because of the aggression of the Israeli government or Israeli policies is also becoming much higher.

What were some key events in the campaign against the Israeli wall?

So after the camp ended and this were actually the one of the stronger points of the popular struggle the pristine purple struggle which the ark is joined and the camp was I think raided or had to be stopped because of the army from some for different reasons and the then we had uh several demonstrations in different villages that joined the struggle against the world this hello captain in in its village work of the popular committee the Israeli oppression was stronger in some villages was less stronger than others somebody just kept demonstrating and some people we just stopped a lot of them uh till this day I’m not quite sure the exact numbers but also some people consider it as part of the struggle that between 17 to 23 people died in demonstrations and when somebody died in a village it’s really hard to not hard but somebody just don’t don’t want to risk any more after it or if the world is already constructed. We came to a point today where there are at least four villages every Friday with a constant demonstrations that we what we do is mobilizing Israeli crowds in some internationals or at least people that live in Israel it can be tourists and it can be Israelis we mobilize them to the to the demonstrations. We actually did some street medics or demonstration medics courses to be sure that there’s some medical people other medics and then we also take responsibility in the legal side of it for people who’ve been arrested we have legal teams that work with law firms that support people who ask us for legal support, it can be Israelis and Palestinians

Among the years as I said some the struggles in some villages were shorter than the others, most of it were where it’s focused today it’s the region of Ramallah where there are three villages demonstrating in one village near Bethlehem which also now has uh almost a week once a week or twice a week direct actions to try to stop the bulldozers who tried to construct construct the wall over there we also join other direct actions in uh and staff around the west bank, unfortunately the Gaza strip is prohibited to get close, if you get close you cannot be sure to probably be stopped before and we didn’t really have a call of work with them we’re not imposing ourselves on anybody else so we just answer calls.

What are some common direct action tactics anarchists in Palestine use?

Well as I said before it’s it’s really depends on reality we during constructions of the world we have places where directors and direct action takes more places because it’s it’s happening and you can try to stop a bulldozer you can try to do sit-downs you can try to there’s no confrontation while the or direct confrontation with soldiers and border police while the wall or the fence is constructed you know you’re pretty much facing a wall you’re not facing anybody else there were a lot of actions in the last years and now as I said in the village of Wallachia which is between Jerusalem and Bethlehem they’ve been stopping the bulldozers in the last few weeks several times in the in nearly in Ramallah there was a success there was two successful actions in the last year of actually taking down parts of the concrete wall which is five and seven meters tall we do have other again it’s it’s really hard for us to to actually come with an idea of direct action because we can come and say oh let’s go and tear down part of the world but we go back home while the Palestinians will suffer from the army aggression later on so it’s we’re waiting for a Palestinian initiative that we can give our advices from our experience and see if they’re willing to pay the price we’ll be there to be with them with solidarity if we’re invited again there was a one direct action in Tel Aviv a week ago when they painted one of the when the main fountain in Tel Aviv with a red color so they dyed it to look like blood it was against the seeds in Gaza and Israeli aggression there were direct actions where people put barbed wire in the middle of the street and blocked over the streets in Tel Aviv in Jerusalem declaring a closed military zone these days I think most of the direct action uh are in the places where the construction is still going on because it’s something you don’t need to plan too much it’s either you succeed to do it or not.

We had at least one success, I think it’s I can guarantee it’s a real fact but the people who built the wall the constructor builds well in the village of Neolin where we succeed to stop the boulders around dozens or times or suddenly stopping the bulldozers also when a demonstration gets close they had to go away for the security so it’s actually stopping the work and apparently he got bankrupt because he lost a lot of money from damage to the bulldozers and losing a lot of our hours and none of the insurance company in Israel is willing to ensure a new person work on the fence so for apparently we succeeded to do some kind of like some kind of achievement even if the world is there but somebody lost something because of it.

Your group was started by Israelis, so do you define your group as a secular organization, Jewish, or by some other term?

First of all, in our case, it’s a group of people that we don’t really have definition like we’re not it started with people that were more anarchist maybe the members today sounds them a lesson okay it’s a group that wants to mobilize people a lot of the really active people are anarchists a lot of the people will be finding some anarchists but the group is open to everybody we we don’t we try not to define ourselves as as anything because while you define people you dismiss other people into the struggle we try to bring people into demonstrations or actions as long as they have respect and understanding that the Palestinians are leading the these demonstrations and they need to respect the Palestinians we we don’t we can’t define ourselves as Israeli you know it’s not something we were actually talking about the disgusting music we are based in Israel most of us like are Israelis but there were international activists that didn’t come with the international solidarity movement or other movements in Palestine that actually felt that they want to work with us as they came and were active with us and help in some aspects we open to everybody that feel comfortable we’re not trying to tell somebody not to be because of the nationality or because of their beliefs we have people that come to demonstrations that believe in god we don’t not only they believing that we we’re working with Palestinians that every demonstration that starts on a Friday starts actually from the Friday prayer, so there’s the issue of being secular or ethicist is something that we don’t raise much we raise among ourselves in some discussions but it doesn’t show how the nature of the group is.

In the short term should we be advocating a one-state or two-state solution?

Well it’s I’m kind of the no instrument today but it’s really because of the trying not to have any political stand specifically for the solution and I think most of us there’s no group decision because to start we we don’t join petitions most of the time we don’t try to to show a specific decision because we want to have the freedom of each member to have his own decision what is the right thing in the end we won’t accept people that are against the Palestinian you know or acting against Palestinians even if the consumers are proposing we won’t accept them so as a group I think most of us will talk about one state it is the closest thing we can think about some kind of uh of justice two states is something that will continue to separate between Palestinians and Israelis it continue to do some injustice while one state with a concrete uh and built up constitution which would be circular giving the freedom to worship but doesn’t include inside the politics might lead to some kind of a state that can look better from what we’re having now we actually have one state but we have a segregated apartheid state with the Israelis control of the area and we control four million people and it’s one state we want we don’t want this situation to stay obviously a lot of us will have utopian fault of no states and no borders but utopia is one thing and reality is the other thing and in the one state can be one thing that we can I think we can again it’s like compromising in a way but it’s it’s what we in reality is what might work won’t be easy but I think two states won’t solve any of the uh hate between both communities.

Do you think the term apartheid system applies to the situation in Palestine? Is it similar in that way to South Africa?

It’s a totally personal answer not like a group answer just to clear it actually when people started to use apartheid for Palestine I felt a bit uncomfortable I think it’s two racist systems that have a lot of similarity there’s all this separation idea of based on race nationality in is Israel and South Africa so you had the bus two tents here that enclosed people in their own communities their permits to work in specific places and in Israel we we actually as breaking down the Palestinian territories into smaller and smaller segments and it’s easy to take history definitions and imply to apply to a current situation but I think it’s more complicated I think uh while South Africa were South African were actually proud of it the regime here was very clear we this is a very slow this is what we believe in and it’s what’s going to be it’s why in Israel the Israeli government froziers always try to have an excuse and dismiss the idea that it’s a racist separation they always say it’s a security issue but the core of both of them come from a very colonialist starting point which evolved to two different nationalists or racist systems it doesn’t really matter how you look at it and while the Israelis being more and more advanced through the years this clarity of apartheid had more resistance around the world because it was so clear Israel is smart enough to to have the people to talk for this kind of separation as a security issue not a racist issue but but it’s uh but it’s very familiar you send settlers to sit on an indigenous land and then you just develop your own system of what is better to separate the indigenous people from the colonies people and then people can use the terms apartheid I think it’s it’s good because people refer to something on the other hand I think it should be something more defined as a specific thing to for Israeli policy we need to find a world a definition that will when people say apartheid they don’t have the South African apartheid Israeli apartheid they have they’ll have something about Israeli separation system which is of course not good uh definition but something a word that will be in history and at the moment uh reflect directly only for Israeli policies.

What is the International Solidarity Movement and what are your thoughts on their effectiveness?

I’ll talk generally and go specifically about Israel and Palestine what we do see in the last 15 20 years is people travelling to do good stuff in other places this house they call it all volunteering charity it’s become more and more popular because mobilizing around will become easier NGOs and globalization make things much more accessible unfortunately those people that come to a place that doesn’t have any context relevant to what they where they are you have if you come here in South Africa and you go to Soweto you have a few blocks that are renovated and look nice look like the middle of I don’t know a village town in Europe if you had some greens around it or the red bricks nice side-walks people go there a few minutes and go away have no reflection to the millions of people around and they live in checks and not connected to electricity don’t have basic needs and same thing can be in in let’s say environmental volunteering when you go to some places and you’re like oh we save the turtles what about the communities that are really poor over there that you don’t care about you sit in extend evidence and very clear in Palestine so organizations that bring people and doing I my kind of provocative term is occupational safari they take a bus they stop in a demonstration for two hours then they go to another place they eat the ethnically Arabic food in the in the restaurant to go to some tourist areas they do get a glimpse of what the occupation is but they don’t really refer and a lot of these people my my a lot of other activists main problem is that these people are not active home on their own issues I don’t need 30 Italians to come and tell me what’s right and what’s wrong you know we had the Italian woman telling one of our members the cheese member inactive for seven years after the terrier started in one of the villages he said oh now you’re happy with your government it’s like what do you mean first of all we anarchist against oh we’re not happy with the government as a but definition of anarchist second this person she’s mobilizing an organizing thing for seven years and then you have tourists that come for just a glimpse and think oh you are like the soldiers because you are Israeli or because you’re living here and that’s why I i don’t like this I don’t like to go and like I wouldn’t go to any struggle and be there for like a few days and trying to say that I’m that I know everything about it actually even if I move let’s say I moved to South Africa I would move to job and I’m starting to be involved here about issues I won’t make suggestions after only one after a while just when I feel really comfortable of like how things are and that I actually understand what’s going around not let’s bring stupid ideas around it it’s the same thing in Palestine and you and you have times when it’s really big numbers because it’s very easy for them to be with solidarity with Palestinians of course it’s a very clear oppression compared to other oppression you have a new country you know it’s easier to go and see Palestine because it’s an easy place to get to with all these Israeli Israeli attempts to pro to make people make it harder to people together it’s still much easier what about poverty in your country what about other ethnic groups in your country most of people come from western countries doesn’t do any solidarity work with people in their countries so this is my problem and some other activists as well like it’s all about the idea of them coming there it’s about the idea of having a glimpse and thinking they know everything and being only active on specific things and not in a global issue.

How would you briefly explain anarchism to someone who had never heard of it before?

I think my vision of anarchism and how I will introduce it it’s the idea that it’s a to believe that equality justice basic human rights or animal rights for a lot of anarchists are the core of many societies we need to we’re responsible for each other and we need to fight for it there’s nothing there’s no institute or a person that can stand a group of people that can stand above it I can make it this is like the easiest way for me to explain this is saying I don’t the idea of people dying because there’s some vague border being decided many years ago it’s pretty bad the idea of people dying for some vague ideas that are just for institutional or governmental things or for people names or for sacred places is for me it’s one of the worst formation where humanity came to so for me anarchism is the opposite for it what you fight for dignity equality human rights animal rights it’s a I don’t have a specific thing I think it’s a right to be to have your own life with respect to others maybe the basic.

How do you practice anarchism in your day-to-day life?

Well I think first of all being active in anarchists against the wall and confronting the idea of the Israeli government authority it’s like this is a big thing that I would I’m feeling it’s part of my anarchist belief having solidarity part of a fight as it supports oppressed people where anarchists were part of in many places around the world this is where I feel that I’m active as a photographer I try to document a lot of social struggles I try to bring up the issues of people that being oppressed by the system by their society by government, by the neighbours, it can be many things, on the other hand I try to to consume less where I can obviously as a photographer I have a lot of like mainstream commercial consumerism of computers and camera and electricity and everything that belongs to technology actually but on the other hand if I can do dumpster or place where I can do dumpster diving I’ll try to do dumpster diving I there are times that maybe I shoplifted I can’t I can’t be sure if it was shoplifting or I just had a special sale the deal for myself and then and the main thing is going in and talking with people and sharing the idea of sharing is a big thing in my life from very young age not making money to be what control my my daily life so if I have friends or even comrades or people like tell me oh we can’t eat or we don’t want we can’t go to our to this hike because it’s so expensive and at that moment of time I have the money to spend on them I will do it in and the other thing is trying because I’m travelling a lot as a photographer and actively trying to network between different communities that I know as anarchists or activists and talking about it as much as I can and trying to explain to people my views in different places.

Why do many anarchists practice alternative lifestyles?

Well I think it’s an evolution in society, we try to make autonomous areas and define our own places. So a squat is can be excluded from the city where you’re living it you can have your own ideas and community inside where things that for the normal people so-called normal people normal society looks strange and you can define like if you feel comfortable only with vegan people so you can have your vegan community in a squat or in a house it doesn’t matter and you don’t need to hear the criticism of the people around you unfortunately uh anarchy is being criticized all the time and when you the thing you mentioned veganism squatting dumpster diving always look weird for people so you’re creating your own places which are our alternative for what we not believing in we don’t believe in the capitalistic money chasing society so we’re creating something better we don’t believe in animal abuse so we we people get been being vegan I’m not vegan so I don’t want to talk in the name of vegans but many of my friends is this how they say vegan and they it’s what they believe and a lot of this anarchist uh way of life is also confronting the idea that you need to be as people tell you to be telling you to rent a house and telling it to work in this thing and when you’re doing the things that you’ve been told you you actually supporting the system that you’re trying to be against and you make it stronger your money goes to people that you don’t want it to go the abuse and injustice of different people and animals and even continuing if you are continuing with the normal way of life so we create an alternative where we can live in obviously we are privileged to do it compared to other people if you ask me what I think about it and it’s great that we have the opportunity but you have a lot of squatters that being a squatter is a highlight of their anarchism they won’t go and do solidarity work with anything else many squatters will do solidarity work many activists will even squat but it’s happening that it’s very privileged in specific societies look at the landless people here look what they’re facing compared to the privilege of being able to squat in Europe in different cities look at the at house eviction house demolitions in Israel we can’t squat in Israel it’s very harsh but it’s it’s thing that’s been tried so it is great that people can do it but we always need to remember that we are privileged to to do most of these things it’s a privilege that we can choose a lot of people don’t have the choice to to go to a lot of those alternative things.

What are your thoughts on the many different tendencies within anarchism and the often unproductive infighting?

Well, I’m not familiar enough with the reason that there are so many conflicts, I tend to believe that all these conflicts are almost signs of as much even if people call themselves anarchists it’s almost like being a politician you know I think the great idea of being an anarchist that you can define your own reality if some people tell you you’re not anarchist enough it’s their problem it’s not yours I know I’m not trying to prove to anybody so when people argue about it it’s great I think it’s good to have these discourses and discussions and I don’t know if you can call it the evolution of anarchism or ongoing things but need to remember that practising anarchism is more important than talking about it uh for me that’s why I don’t have many views about it.

How optimistic are you about reaching an anarchist society or world?

In the anarchist 12 I’m not optimistic in a revolutionary way I don’t think the world will ever be none of the world won’t be ready for it and not that you don’t see more popular or social movements growing up in many places I just think the forces we’re facing are much more stronger they’re controlling much more and they have the ambition to control while we as anarchists trying to change to our reality was there’s no control and it’s very hard to do it on the other hand I do see merging again of societies and autonomous autonomies areas where people who live in anarchist point of views or anarchy’s values I mean you can buy you can create syndicalist farm networks in in some areas it will work better than the capitalistic way of living you can as we said before it can be something smaller like a squat it can be your flat I just think the revolution if you aim on a revolution you you missing the reality at the moment and it’s too far away it’s to do it because we are we are not strong enough not not even as a number of people you know even if we reach the numbers that are strong enough for evolution then we need to have the equipment to do it and unfortunately uh the other side being much stronger you see it when the when the anti-g8 the anti-G8 protest started or it’s you can say that the initiative moment of the time point the beginning was Seattle in ‘99 well it became more global and more famous you had a G8 protest after it but if you really look at the movement or the movement of movements as it’s called from the after Genoa and to find out start to just break down unfortunately we didn’t know how to go on from it with as a global movement and we don’t network enough between people around the world and uh until we maybe when we start to network more then we’ll have a better chance to show some kind of alternative but it doesn’t mean it will be anarchist alternative it might be more it just means that it might be more powerful the simple person you know for more power to the people around the world.

John Zerzan on Primitivism

Anarcho-primitivist author and host of Anarchy Radio.

These are clips taken from an interview recorded in Eugene, USA, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

This is one of a few ex-leftist authors in the mix of the larger documentary series which I’m uploading. This is being done to better understand their ideas, in order to properly critique them. To see a conversation I had with Zerzan on direct action, school shootings, authenticity & more, click here.

John Zerzan on Primitivism

Please tell us about yourself

Well, I’m an old anarchist writer who lives in Eugene. I’ve been here since ’81. I’ve spent a lot of time in California. I mainly write and do a weekly radio show, Anarchy Radio. I like the Pacific Northwest and that’s it, I guess.

How did you first get involved in anarchism?

I first got involved with anarchism in the 60s. I was in the Bay Area, in San Francisco and Berkeley back in the 60s. Well placed, that was a lucky place to be. I had just gotten out of college. Height-Ashbury and Berkeley, those exciting days. Although it wasn’t… In the US here anarchism wasn’t very much a part of the situation explicitly. I think it was really even among the communist groups, there were somewhat more anarchist because America is a more individualist place, I guess. I was influenced a lot by the Situationists back then in the 60s, early 70s, which by then was over. Anyway, that was my first experience with that sort of thing.

What has been some of your involvement?

I think my original involvement with anarchism was with an independent do it yourself union in San Francisco. It was a white collar public employees union. It had welfare workers, clerks, hospital workers. We didn’t use the word anarchism but it was very anti-hierarchical, no paid people, we were not attracted to signing a contract. It was sort of Wobblie-like, it was sort of IWW like. Probably more chaotic than that. You know, the late sixties. That was a huge experience, a huge learning experience. It wasn’t, it really wasn’t reading the anarchist classics that brought me into that, it was a hands on thing. What do you see when you start something that’s outside of the accepted thing? We were outside the organized labour thing. We were attacked more by the big unions, official unions than City Hall or other business interests. That was pretty informative. It made me think you can’t be independent of that totality is going to be attacked from all sides. The media, for example, we would get those really excited journalists, what an amazing experiment you have here, that’s really excited. That’s going to be an interesting story. And we would say it’s never going to get published. We weren’t conspiratorial, but we had seen it a bunch of times .. these stories never saw the light of day. Because in San Francisco the unions don’t want people to hear this because it might give them ideas. So, in other words, it wasn’t the anarchist canon or anarchist groups. I looked around for them in the Sixties and only found the Wobblies, and they aren’t really anarchist, they’re syndicalist. And they were doing their union thing. They kind of slipped right through the adventure of the Sixties, they played no part in it. So we never thought any anarchists but we were anarchists without using the circled A.

What is anarchism?

I’m certainly still an anarchist, and I think that anarchy means getting rid of domination, identifying what domination consists of, and the green anarchy thing, or anarcho-primitivism, it’s called a variety of names – anti-civ, roughly speaking the same thing – is, I think, mainly adding to the list of what is domination, and certainly there are still quite a few anarchists who don’t want the list lengthened; they don’t see the factories, they don’t see globalised, standardised life as domination, we do, we want to get rid of it,and that, that’s the split in the anarchy situation around the world, and I think what’s coming on is the green thing, I think there are more kids that are way more turned on by that than self-managing mass society.

What is anarcho-primitivism?

Anarcho-primitivism? That’s kind of a mouthful, and again these labels, they quickly solidify into ideologies, and that’s a vexing problem in itself, the formation, the ideology formation dilemma; I mean it’s okay as a shorthand but I think one of the things it is, is stressing the anarchy part of trying to stress the questioning and the openness, keeping it fluid instead of hardening it into a set of answers, because I think we’re just, I think we’re trying to contribute to the sense of raising good questions and in terms of the anarchist lineage, there are people now that don’t seem to see that we’re in the second decade of the 21st century. This isn’t 1870 any more, you know, Kropotkin and so forth, it’s almost unavoidable that we’d have different questions or some added questions. People in the 1800’s weren’t quite so in a position to see where all this was leading, environmentally and psychologically, although there was already a lot of evidence there, and some people did see it a long while ago, but the primitivist part, I think, one way to say it is there won’t be a future unless it’s primitive in some way or another; we simply cannot continue to assume that the industrialising, modernising, massifying tendency is, can be assumed, can be taken for granted, can be left outside of what should be problematised.

And that certainly includes technology, I think that’s one of the most clear aspects of it. What is technology? It’s not neutral, it’s always, it’s never value-free, it’s, you can read what society is in the technology, and if you come to that conclusion, then you open up a whole different, a whole new dimension I think to what anarchy is. It isn’t sailing along going well we have to have all this, well we gotta have technology. We have to domestication, we have to have mass society, we have to have civilization. Well, why are we in this terrible crisis, this totalising crisis that, that everyone can see now. If we just keep sailing along, how are we really different from the dominant culture, the dominant values that certainly wants to preserve all this and keep going forward.

What are the specific problems we are facing?

Well the problems we face now are, I mean nothing is new, we can safely say that, I mean nothing is totally novel, and a lot of this has been developing for the longest time actually, but now we’re seeing to some extent unprecedented phenomena that are systematic and I think it’s not only the, the unfolding, the catastrophic unfolding of what’s happening to the physical world, but it’s also what’s happening to inner nature, the inter-personal, the social, the personal, I mean…One of the things I bring up a lot on my weekly radio broadcast is the shootings, these uh, now this sort of chronic thing where you’ve got these out of the blue, supposedly out of the blue mass shootings. Multiple homicides usually ending in suicide, so often appended with the description, this person was never a problem, never missed work, never got in an argument, never had a mental health issue, just killed fifteen people. What is that saying about the nature of this civilization? Nobody seems to want to look at that. I’ve never seen anyone on the Left go near that question, and yet how horrific does it have to get before you can see the thing unfolding or maybe even unravelling.

What often hits me, and it’s kind of dismaying, is not only that people who are radical, who have something to offer in terms of what explains all this, are missing the most obvious things – where is the, this doesn’t count, these shootings, for example? These pathological things that are unfolding? And of course along the same lines at the same time, the unfolding of the industrial disasters is just so clear, it’s just, you know, reality pounding on the door; in other words, what’s happened in the past, say, since last summer, summer 2010, not only the five billion, five million?, five million barrels gushing from the Gulf of Mexico floor, but then the toxic geyser in Hungary, the sludge flowing into the Danube and into the Black Sea, the neighbourhoods engulfed in natural gas leak explosions…it just goes on and on. And at the same time though we’re always told that technology is the answer; it will provide the solution, we’ll have the breakthrough. And then what we really have is a record of disaster, and the disaster is deepening, the disaster is all part of the massive assault on not only the natural world but all the rest of it, on the built out. It hasn’t worked out. What promise has been fulfilled? And we can look at the alienation not just of something as spectacular as the shootings, that sort of thing, but the isolation, the lack of connection, the disembodied, what passes for connection among people. It’s exactly the opposite of connection among people – it’s machine connection, it’s people living a more synthetic existence all the time, a more separate, dispersed existence. There’s no…community itself has almost vanished, and direct experience has almost vanished.

These are epochal developments, and yet you could spend your lifetime looking at Leftist writings and you wouldn’t get a hint – you’d still think, you could close your eyes and think: oh, I bet this was written in maybe 1951 or something, not 2011. You know, people are not even, you think well, that’s something to ponder isn’t it, it gets your attention? No, it doesn’t. I mean that’s the, that’s the danger of ideology again, to put it another way. If you’re so locked in to the 19th century that you can’t see the disastrous course of life now, and look at the way it’s spreading and the…the avaricious pace of the technological pace is just phenomenal how fast it’s moving. And yet that too seems to be of no interest to what passes for radical theory. You get the big stars of philosophy now: Badiou, Zizek. Two Stalinists, two Maoists. That’s unbelievable – why not two Nazis? I mean, it’s just a scandal that this passes for thinking, thought in this condition that we’re in. It’s just a very bitter joke.

What led to these problems?

What accounts for the situation we’re in, what brought it about is, um…the answers to that are lacking and, um, I think the answers, the answer to why it’s lacking is interesting in itself. In other words, if you implicate the whole, all of civilization, then, you know, that’s not going to be welcomed, for various reasons: what do you do with it, and besides the fact that it’s too radical to propose it that way. But that’s what you have to do, in other words the question of civilization I think is basically the question of domestication and I often go back to Freud’s civilization and its discontents which really is about domestication; more precisely he’s talking about what happens when people are domesticated and he concluded that you get neurotic people, you get people that have this psychic wound that never heals because you don’t get over domestication, it’s a condition that is unhealthy, that has banished instinctual freedom and Eros, so, how could people be happy. I mean it was a very radical insight that he had. And that’s, it’s, civilization comes on the heels of this move of taming people, of starting with taming or domesticating animals and then plants. In other words agriculture. And various people have said it was the biggest mistake of human beings to, that shift to domestication, away from the foraging existence, a hunter gatherer taking freely from nature what is provided by nature rather than engineering it and capturing it in terms of private property and farming.

So, in fact, you can go further back. Even more basic social institutions which in turn sets up the domestication, which in turn sets up civilization, is specialisation, division of labour, which seems to have laboured very, very slowly along for thousands of generations, which is probably why it wasn’t so much resisted, it was…because all of society is incorporated, or goes along with something that primary as slowly emerging specialisation, but that slowly emerging specialisation sets up tensions and inequalities, and one can see it, if we flash back to the present, we see ourselves as completely under the effect of control of specialists. We’re deskilled, we’re wholly reliant on different experts…well this began somewhere. Again, maybe almost imperceptibly, but you have these differentials and perhaps the shaman was the first full-blown specialist with power over others…not that that’s always so malignant but it’s a condition that was not there before that, so, with the movement of division of labour, that sets the stage, I think it’s probably fair to say, for the advent of domestication. That’s the take-off point. But there wouldn’t be the take-off basis without the specialisation coming along, and then the next move, the pivotal move of alienation, is to domesticated life. And that’s exactly what we have now and it’s genetic engineering and cloning and nanotech and all the rest of it; it started with farming and this is the logical fruition, the extension, it’s just another step of control, it’s an inner logic, to use Adorno’s phrase, and unless it’s cut off it continues – you have more and more control, you have more domination of nature and you know with more resources to flesh it out; flesh it out is the wrong way to put it I guess, but to bring it along to further heights of control.

What’s it gonna take to bring it all down?

Well to bring all this down, to break out of it I think requires that we become less tolerant of some of the things that hold it all together, for example the Left. If anarchy is still going to be a flavor of the left, and by the left I mean the historical left, including traditional classical leftist anarchism. That doesn’t break with the mainstream of the dominant culture at all, and so there’s a real chasm, it’s not a sectarian divide, there’s really some pivotal stuff at issue. And that’s just the way it is, again, if people want the mass production society, mass culture, mass society, then they do. And some of these people aren’t willing to, in terms of the anarchist left, they’re not willing to admit that, that they want to preserve all this, that they really want more of it.

They have a very different orientation than anarcho-primitivists, for example, one thing that’s telling I think, and has to do with the breakout, has to do with the solution… Is how little respect they give the indigenous issue, the indigenous reality. They really, people who are leftists, want natives to become workers, consumers and voters. They do, they don’t see the integrity or the value of those lifeways.

And I’m referring back to, it goes all the way back to non-domesticated people, nomadic hunter-gatherers, or others, horticulturalists, who have been outside of the force-field of civilization. They don’t want that, they never have, sometimes you see people kind of flirting with that, but you know we have to look at the consistent points of view.

And I think this starts for anarchism, I’d just reiterate that we won’t get anywhere if we’re part of the left, that the left’s dead, and it should be dead, and we should just be dumping the dirt on it’s corpse and move on, otherwise we don’t move on. That’s the first thing, and there’s so much more to tackle, so if that’s what your definition of anarchism is, how can you expect some kind of solution, how can you expect something that inspires people with the same old shit that no one wants anymore. Nobody cares about the Spanish Civil War 80 years ago.

What does it have to do with right now? What it says to me is keep production going, I don’t want to see production keep going, I want to see the end of production. It’s an orientation that has to take itself seriously and fight for the conclusions. Instead of saying, we have this point of view now, and we’re comfortable with that. You can’t be comfortable in this world with anything that counts.

Isn’t anarchism utopian and against human nature?

It’s sometimes said that the anarchist view is utopian and it goes against human nature, but as I like to think of the way Kevin Tucker puts it: we, there were human species for about two million years, we were hunter gatherers in other words, for that period of time, so wouldn’t it be a more reasonable assumption to think that that’s our human nature? And we see now, this has been a huge, probably the key, maybe the key inspiration for anarcho-primivitism is the revision of what is now the orthodox view of what that life was like, in other words a life of sharing. There’s absolutely no question about it in the literature if you’re looking at anthropology, ethnology, all that – egalitarianism was the cardinal point of the ethos of hunter gatherer life and the rest of it filled it by so many people: Marshall Sahlins being one of my favourite in terms of how little people had to work. I think all this has to do with human nature. In fact, actually, the term work is a modern term and probably doesn’t apply as a separate activity, as part of existence, social existence…mumbles…but the amount of time spent some way or another on subsistence, um, very often, um, a fraction of what we spend at modern wage labour. And Sahlins also pointed out, as culture moves along, people work more and more, and that’s kind of interesting: technology promised us we’d work less and less but just as with war, civilization has chronic war, it’s certainly chronic work, and so these things are imposed it seems like, so what is the human nature part if people before they were defeated in their basic orientation to each other and the world and domesticated, before private property and social classes, which really started with domestication, that human nature seems to be the a priori one. That seems to be the one that obtained. So, in other words, for example, people, you also hear people say, well it’s human nature to always be changing things, always trying to improve things. You’ve got to always keep transforming stuff, well, it wasn’t really transformed for about two million years, in fact that’s what’s always vexed the archaeologists – how could the stone tool technology if you want to call it that be so unchanging and yet they knew how to take care of things; they had about the same IQ as ours a million years ago at least, so, if it’s human nature to change things, and they didn’t change things, then there’s probably something wrong with that conception of human nature…

And I would say to that, why change it? If you’ve got a good thing going on, it was very workable, it wasn’t destroying nature, it wasn’t causing war, it wasn’t causing stratification or hierarchy, all the things that as anarchists we supposedly revere, and strive toward, that was the original anarchist society, not only the original affluent society as Sahlins puts it, but the original one and the only one, so, that kind of human nature was very very stable and workable; it was the original adaptation to the Earth, in fact the only one, there hasn’t been any successful adaptation, quite the disastrous opposite of that since civilization. The always-forwarding of the attack on the unbuilt world, the attack on the natural world, so I don’t know, this, it’s a very modern take on what is human nature, and of course that’s the ideology of civilization, we’re supposed to make those assumptions, we’re supposed to just accept them and honour them, well, it’s human nature to do X,Y and Z…well, it wasn’t for 99% of our existence, so that’s just something that if we swallow we keep it going, but if you rethink that then it looks a bit different I think.

How optimistic are you?

I am incurably optimistic and I’m always mocked for that too, but I guess it’s probably because I sort of came of age in the 60’s, when it seemed like things were really turning, it seemed like the winds were turning as they say, and I don’t know, I’ve never lost that feeling that a lot is possible. And I think, and maybe this is just because of that, umm, predisposition to see things in a better light, I tend to emphasise how, how weak the system really has become. I think it’s, it doesn’t have, it has very little ideological base left. In the US you have over 2 000 000 people in prisons. When…I mean I’m just using that as an example, but I think, if you don’t have any greater allegiance than that and you have to fall back on coercion, if you have to fall back on brute force, you’ve kind of already lost the battle. And, you know, in terms of the whole, speaking of ideology, I remember in my age I certainly remember the American dream stuff, you know the ‘your kids will have it better than you’ that’s just an assumption ‘it’s getting better’ you know there’s all these wonderful new developments…nobody believes that any more and this system doesn’t even bother trying to say it, it would just be, it’s too laughable to say it, so, it just doesn’t have any answers, it just doesn’t have any, any solutions that are cogent, I mean you just look around and you can see that.

So now, I think it’s, somewhat akin to locking people up now, it’s more, this is where it’s at, better get on board or you’re, you lose, you’re screwed, you just don’t have a choice. It isn’t that it’s so attractive that you rush to join, you just…I think more and more people just feel trapped and, um, without a choice in the matter, and so, that, when you get that kind of erosion of faith in, in the future of the system or the goodness of the system, it shows a fragility there that we should ponder a little more. Sometimes we seem to feel so overpowered and we are overpowered obviously, but…but our enemy is weakening I think. It’s really, it’s showing itself to be nothing but bad news, and so I think what has taken the place of the ideology of the dominant culture is technology; it now relies so much on technology. And even in terms of social-type questions, everything will somehow, someday soon, magically be healed and solved and taken care of by technology. That’s the last part of the ideological armoury, and it works to some degree, we’re all held hostage to it, we surely are, so it’s not an illusion, but it’s not the same as people actually believing in the different components of what is trapping us. And that’s what we have to get past, and that’s as old as civilization, by the way, you know. From cities that were walled cities, um, you can’t go out there, that’s, it’s very hazardous, it’s dangerous, you’ll get killed out there, it’s a good thing you’re safe in the city, we have the army, we have the temple, we have all the stuff and you’re secure here, it’s still saying the same thing. Except it isn’t secure here, it, it’s anything but secure, and really everybody knows it. There’s so much anxiety in any developed country you can cut it with a knife and that shows, another way of showing that no one is believing in the promises, no one feels they’re protected, so, I think, in a way the road is open, it’s much more open than we think, to get somewhere against the prevailing, still dominant controls.

What can each of us do now?

I think individually what we can do is…is try to see through our captivity to understand it better and to share that instead of, too often we accept the terms of the dialogue in any political culture which leaves out every important question or issue, it simply does, when you look at American politics for example, it’s really nothing but trivial. There’s nothing at issue, it doesn’t question anything important. I’m not saying…I’m not so arrogant to say that there are not issues that affect people, certainly, but nothing fundamental is on the table, and we have to stop that, we have to, we have to interrupt that, and it’s harder to do individually, but that’s part of it too though. But I think that’s just speaking out and interrupting the false, or phony, or pseudo-dialogue that takes place in society and start injecting it with some reality. That’s all it is, it’s just really that simple…

This is a great nation of denial, it’s probably the most…the most in denial one…I don’t know that for sure…So it’s not easy. I think individually, I don’t think it’s a positive thing to be told, which the dominant culture does tell us every day, and I’m sure it’s not just in America, that if you recycle more or take a shorter bath or something like that, you will have some real impact, you won’t, it’s just, you just, it’s just a lie. I look at recycling as just making room for more production. All, none of this stuff has any meaningful reality, and of course we hear about green and sustainable endlessly, and I’ve seen it in India actually and not just the US, of course, but, and it’s easier, if you want to console people, they need to have some sense that they can do something. They can vote, they can be more assiduous in their recycling, or whatever it is, these things that are just a compensation, and actually only strengthen the system, they’re nothing about the solution, I’m sorry, but, it’s a waste of time. You have to look at where does the energy or the water go, for example, if you’re looking at your personal consumption habits, that only reinforces the consumerist mentality. But that’s another thing we can each do, is see through that and reject that and not just keep it to ourselves. We can mock these things that…I think that so many people know it’s just a joke, but it’s socially reinforced and we just go along with it. It’s counter-intuitive to say that these things are not helpful, but, insofar as they’re not helpful, it’s our job, I would say, to find that out, and let other feel encouraged and emboldened to, we can all go a little further, if we each you know, point out the lies, it’s more comfortable to just go along with it of course, but that’s something we can do.

But wouldn’t anarcho-primitivism mean billions of people have to die?

‘We know that anarcho-primitivism certainly means the death of billions of people, almost all of the billions of people, let’s face it. And professor Noam Chomsky points this out very well, he’s called us genocidists. He’s pointed out that it would not just be the unintended consequence if there was somehow a primitivist shift, but it’s the desired consequence.’ Of course this is real deceit. This is just, it’s really hard to believe. But I think actually it’s just the opposite, people like Chomsky and lots of other people, they’re the ones who really don’t care about the six billion people. They’re the ones who want to see them staying in these cities, megacities especially, in these tower-block apartments, where, when everything fails, they’ll be dead in a few days because they have no skills, they have no access to getting along without the whole artificial aspects of modernity. We’re talking about reskilling ourselves and spreading that information and I think there’s a great psychological bonus to that, by the way, I’m not, I don’t pretend to be very far along on that road at all, but I, the one thing I’m struck by, people who have reskilled in terms of knowing how to start a fire, or find edible plants, or make a shelter, or simple tools, they are much more likely I think to be fine with this, because if you want to pull down civilization, and you don’t know how to live without it, you’ll probably hesitate. At some level or other when you’re pulling it down, it’s harder to pull down, it can’t be as fully desired if you’re not ready for what can follow, so I think that’s an important aspect that’s…to, to reverse the picture, I’m not just being rhetorical here, but we’re the ones that are thinking about the six billion people far more than those who not just blithely accept but promote this direction we’re going in, this suicidal, poisonous, pathological train we’re on. If you don’t question that then you don’t give a damn about the six billion people because you’re consigning them to what is already unfolding. All the major cities in the world you can’t breathe the air, so, you know, we gotta keep on industrialising, we gotta bring factories everywhere, you know, that is the opposite of our position, again, because we’re thinking about life on this Earth and I don’t think the people who are making these fantastic charges against us have the right to say that they’re the ones concerned about it.

Does history prove or disprove the Noble savage myth?

Anarcho-primitivism has been accused of largely continuing the noble savage myth, and I plead guilty, because there was a noble savage, and it’s very, it’s very hip to scoff at that, to jeer at that, and that doesn’t mean that we think there was some perfect Eden or something like that, but compared to this nightmare now, especially, and given what we learn from the standard literature, not having to inflate anything, or make up anything, or go into rhapsodies about the absolute perfection of hunter gatherer life, we know how workable it was, and noble or not noble, but yeah, the savage life was much superior, it simple was.

Can you talk a bit about the history of anarcho-primitivism?

When anarcho-primitivism, so-called, first started getting around, there was maybe more of a, kind of, I don’t know if you can call it a purist kind of a view, if it wasn’t nomadic hunter-gatherer then it was horrible and it wouldn’t be worth pursuing, that would simply be the goal, and that hasn’t been eclipsed I would say, I don’t think that’s been lost sight of, I think it’s fairly clear that’s kind of an ideal anti-hierarchical condition, the nomadic part, before you get to sedentarism, but on the other hand there are people, including Kevin Tucker, who have written persuasively that there are a lot of small-scale horticulture-based societies that have been exemplary, that have not fallen into the usual things that come from domestication, and you know, some of this, again, the domestication thing is the watershed, for example, people say, oh you’re all in love with the primitive and what about cannibalism or genital mutilation or human sacrifice or, you know, stuff like that, well none of those things existed before domestication.

So, I think it’s more important to keep that in mind as a general thing rather than try to say that we’re going to have some litmus test or blueprint or something like that in terms of a return.

Audrey Goodfriend on Anarchism in America

Audrey Goodfriend was a lifelong anarchist, born into an anarchist family in the year 1920, who passed away in 2013.

These are clips taken from an interview recorded in January 2011, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

Audrey Goodfriend on Anarchism in America

Please tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Audrey Goodfriend and I live in Berkeley, California, but grew up in NYC but have been in California much more than 2/3 of my life. How I got to be born is one of my favourite stories and I love to tell this especially to anarchists because the name of the story is “I was born because of an agent provocateur”. I love that, ok. How my mother and father met.

So I have to tell you about my father, and then about my mother. My father had become a Jewish socialist in Warsaw, Poland, as a very young man. He was an apprentice and it was a big working class movement there, Yiddish born and he was protesting at a Mayday parade, before WWI, like 1912 or 13. And Poland belonged to Russia at that time and all these kids were arrested and the family poor and very orthodox religious was really worried that he would be drafted or sent away to Siberia, put in jail and sent to Siberia. They decided they better raise some funds and get him to come to the United States. Which they did. I don’t know how they did, I never got that from my father. And I don’t know what boat he came on. But I know he came on a boat and was below deck for a very long time and arrived in Baltimore and was going to his uncle, his mother’s brother, who had come earlier and was now living in Chicago. So he was going to his uncle in Chicago. He was now his dad-uncle. He said Baltimore harbour at that time was a really awful place, he couldn’t believe how this golden land was looking. He had such different visions of what America was like. Warsaw was a beautiful city with parks and trees and everything else and here he came to essentially an area that was slum. But he got to Chicago and got a job as a, his friend was a book binder, he got a job as a book binder in a factory in Chicago and met a man who was an anarchist and introduced him to the Freie Arbeiterstimme. And they had discussions about socialism versus anarchism and my father became an anarchist. Also went to school, was learning English, had learned English and then there was an international young people’s anarchist group in Chicago that my father was part of. And this was a time that Emma Goldman was really really active in the United States going around, trying to get people to protest the draft, to not be drafted and anti-war and she was locked up lots of times.

That time in the US any young man was stopped on the street and if he hadn’t registered for the draft he was sent to jail. My father, fortunately enough, was not old enough factually to be 18 because, again the orthodox Jews in Europe didn’t want their children to go into the army and they didn’t register them until they were a couple of years old. They were able to do, so my father’s official papers had him younger. So he was able to be in the streets and hand out leaflets and do things and not be arrested. And he was part of this group that was run to evade the law just because some of them were young and wouldn’t have been drafted. About a month in.. First he was living and sharing a room with another who was part of this group. And this group was not involved in direct action and bomb throwing. They were not doing anything that Chicago was known for, Haymarket right? They were not doing anything like that. But this man, whose name now I don’t remember, who was trying to incite everybody to do something, like throw a bomb or shoot somebody up or something and then they discovered that he had been planted as an agent provocateur and he was now my father’s roommate. And this really frightened my father and he decided, oh god I better get away because who knows what they’ve got on me you know. And he packed up and he came to NYC. And in NYC meanwhile there was a place, supporting place in Harlem where a woman who had children, she had been in Stelton with her young children, she and the father had split up and she had to make a living for her family and she moved to NYC and rented a big, big house where young anarchist men and women who were working and needed a place to live and wanted someone to cook for them, cause all of them were immigrants, and so Ida had this place in Harlem and my father moved there. It was a place for him.

My mother. Ok, so my father’s living there. My mother was raised also by a very, very, very orthodox mother, didn’t, Jewish women didn’t have to learn how to read and write, they just had to say the prayers and memorize them and my mother was an apprentice garment worker. She was learning how to become a seamstress. At that time, in Russia, Poland, young Yiddish women whose parents were able to send them to school, so many of them became radicalized and became socialists. And what they would do is they would try to organize, proselytize Jewish men and women in the little towns, in the Stettl, organize them. And so some young women came to my mother’s home town, and got a few women together they were, and this was totally illegal, they had to take them, my mother, into the forest, these young women go into the forest and they would learn how to read and write and they learned also about socialism and the Tsar and so my mother was radicalized and kicked religion. And she found it really, really hard to live with her mother, her father had been dead since she was a baby. And she was the youngest child and she just found it impossible to live with her mother.

So meanwhile this woman Ida was from her town, from her home town, so she came to Ida and at this time Ida was still living in New Jersey with her family, that’s when my mother came to Ida’s house and knew Ida. And my mother’s living in Newark because they were living in Newark, New Jersey. Then, when Ida moves to New York, my mother moves also into this house and she’s working in New York and she’s also in need for a place to live. So, my mother and father, and other men and women, were living in this house. There were about 8 people besides Ida and her two children living there. And the Spanish Flu, this was now post-WW, the war has ended, right at the end of WWII, I’m sorry WWI, and the war has ended and the Spanish Flu has taken over a lot of people. And my mother comes home from work one day and the men and women all ate together, because I’d just cooked for a bunch of people. And the interesting thing is that all the Jewish anarchists that I knew, this is a little side, all the men were called by their last names and the women were called by their first name, so my father was always called by his last name, which was Goodfriend in Yiddish, I don’t know why.

So my mother came home from work and said “where is Goodfriend?”, they spoke Yiddish “where is goodfriend” and they said well he came home and he wasn’t feeling well somehow and my mother went up to his room, because apparently she had her eyes on him all along, and she went up there and he was very, very sick and she kind of took care of him. She nursed him. And then, I don’t know how many months after that situation, I was the result. I mean if there hadn’t been an agent provocateur I would not have been born. My father would have remained in Chicago and wouldn’t have met my mother. And anyway here I am! And I’m aware of agent provocateurs!

Can you tell us a bit about your childhood

My father worked at the Rocker-Ferrer center which was originally named after Francisco Ferrer and then when Rudolf Rocker died it was called Rocker-Ferrer centre. And we had a small place but whenever people were over they were always discussing politics. Also, I was a kid in Sacco and Vanzetti days and this is something I always remember, remember, remember, remember. I was, I guess, 6, I was 6 when they were electrocuted, or hung, or shot, what were they? I don’t remember. But I can remember the day when it happened and I remember my parents reading to me in the paper and reading the letter that Sacco had left for his son and I can remember just crying, crying, crying. But before that I remember all the demonstrations I was taken to, so I was aware of what was going on, very early. So I guess there was a milleure of anarchists, a talk always, in the house and people who came were always discussing what the Bolsheviks were doing, and then where I lived was called Asalaam Alaikum houses at that time was started by secular, radical Jews who wanted to perpetuate Yiddish language and culture and they were the whole gamut of leftists from communists to all the different kinds of socialists, Trotskyists, anarchists, even Pala-Zionists which were a Marxist Zionist form. So, in the house, wherever you went, people were discussing politics. So politics was in the air.

We kids when we played, we played capitalist and workers, not cowboys and indians. So you know, this was the manure. So yeah I was always involved in hearing about anarchism and one of the things I said at that speech was, there were several Yiddish anarchist poets, and one Yiddish poet whose name was Buffsugar? And I don’t remember the whole poem anymore, but my parents would always have me recite it, it was called Anarchia, [speaks in Yiddish ‘What is anarchy?’ And then translates] A land that is not governed, people who weren’t governing and weren’t governed. This was as a little kid, I was reciting these things at four years old, right? [smiles] I got up on a chair and I can remember that actually, I was not shy! [laughs] I would get up on a chair and do that. While my sister was very shy, but that’s beside the point.

Can you tell us about the Freie Arbeiterstimme?

Yeah, the Freie Arbeiterstimme. It was a weekly, came out every week and it was put out by a bunch of Yiddish anarchists around the States, that supported it. I can remember Rudolf Rocker coming here when I was 4 years old, there was a big picnic and he was there speaking and he spoke Yiddish. He would come once a year and then the evening before Yum Kippur he would speak and always give a lecture on anarchism. They were always raising money, there was a real cultural atmosphere for me. There was food and there was dancing and there was singing. They were mostly raising funds… and the paper had articles from Emma Goldman, and things from Berkman, and I would read it all. I don’t know exactly how the federation functioned, my dad would always go to that Friday nights.

There were lots of immigrant anarchist groups?

Yeah there were a lot anarchist papers being published, there was a Yiddish anarchist paper the Freie Arbeiterstimme, there was ____ which was a Spanish anarchist paper, an Italian … there was Dielo Truda, the Russian anarchist paper, …. Chinese anarchists living in San Francisco… there was a lot of, and not much English. My parents got a paper called “A Road To Freedom” … and then “Man” came out from Oakland, he was a cause celebre because they kept trying to deport him, but they never could find where he lived, he lived here till he died as an old man.

Do you remember the Spanish Revolution?

Yeah I wasn’t quite 16 yet, my birthday is at the end of the year and I was born in 1920. So yeah, I was very excited about the Spanish Revolution, really, really excited by it.

Did you have a lot of information about it?

Well at that time an English paper came out then the vanguard group had split, there were a lot of splits, not so much ideological but personal, love … so the vanguard split at that time, the vanguard continued … then during the Spanish Revolution the two groups got back together and published a paper called The Spanish Revolution and there were lectures and meetings to support the revolution.

Did you ever question anarchism because your parents were anarchists?

I questioned their anarchism. You know. They voted. They were for Israel. I can remember as a little kid, they were telling me there shouldn’t be any bosses and they would tell me to do things and as a kid I would say you’re not my boss! So, no, I didn’t question anarchism. Because I had read Emma Goldman. I was convinced it was the right thing. When I was 11 I read the ABC of Communist Anarchism by Alexander Berkman and it was a simple explanation of what anarchism is all about and I had hoped to see the revolution, you know Spain… That’s why I got involved in education because I saw that I’m not a special anarchist… Unless 90% of the people are anarchist, the result will not be an anarchist society in any way… And at one point I thought I knew how an anarchist world would be like, I had it all organized and federated and all. And then I figured I really don’t know. It would have to be decided by the people there, if that ever happened, not what I think should happen… When I was living in New York a few of us decided what to do and we decided to live cooperatively, communally, see how we can live outside the system, how little we can do and spread our ideas that way. So, David and I, the man I was living with. Oh, that’s another thing, when David and I lived together, my parents who were never married said why don’t we get married? I said, but Ma, you and Papa never got married, so why should we get married? They said, ‘oh things are different now.’

What is anarchism?

An anarchist is a person who believes in being able to live with one’s family and friends and neighbours without having to work in a capitalist system, without having to have governments, police, armies. And in the area where you live, with your friends, you figure out how to live, figure out how you want your kids to grow up, if you have kids. And basically work things out peacefully, not that there aren’t differences but if there are differences you either leave your area, move some place else or you fight it out hand to hand, person to person. But not with it being an army or police force.

Isn’t anarchy just chaos and disorder?

No, it is not! It’s a mis-definition of anarchism. Anarchism is not chaos. Anarchism is a very, as I said before, ordered and working together with people and is not chaos and is not violence. It’s working out differences. Chaos is not anarchism. Whoever said that doesn’t know what anarchism is because anarchism basically just means “without government”.

What do you think are the most important anarchist principles?

Wow… Live and let live, I don’t know if it’s an anarchist principle, but that’s one of my principles. Mutual aid, yes. Mutual aid is a very important one. I talk about mutual aid a lot. And that’s one thing that’s easy to talk about with other people who are not anarchists, that concept of mutual aid. Not exploiting, not making money from somebody else’s work. I’d never thought about anarchist principles [in those terms], apart from not being an authoritarian, and not being under the heel of an authority as much as you can. I guess, I don’t know if this is a principle, but being as illegal as you can get away with.

What can each of us do to make the world better?

I believe in supporting as many newspapers as I can, whether I agree with them or I don’t agree with them. So, I get everything, I get ‘the fifth estate’, and I get ‘social anarchism’ and I get ‘anarcho-syndicalism’, you know I get all these things, and I read them all, and I contribute to their well-being somehow or other.

My granddaughter has a friend who had just done a documentary, and I saw it about 2 weeks ago, and these are people who went all through Mexico and South America, interviewing small communities, here, there and everywhere. And here were people doing marvelous things in their community, like planting trees and doing something about the pollution in the water near them. And this was not cities, just little places, and there were lots. Well, I saw 6 documentaries from these places, and I thought, well, this is really exciting to me.

Aileen O’Carroll on Anarchism in Ireland

Aileen O’Carroll is an organiser with the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland.

These are clips taken from an interview recorded in Dublin in April 2011, for a documentary never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.

Aileen O’Carroll on Anarchism in Ireland

When did you first hear about anarchism?

I first heard about anarchism when I was 17 or 18 and I went to college and I met people there who described themselves as anarchists. Before that I would have been in politics from two things really. One, from reading feminist literature that my mother had lying around. And two, from going to the Catholic Church which is very dominant in Ireland and there were an awful lot of things that the Catholic Church was doing that were very anti-woman and that made me quite angry. So, that’s where my political activism came from. So, I think when I met people who described themselves as anarchists it was more like, I’m that as well. The way of organizing, and the decentralizing, and the empowering of individuals was something that I already believed in, so it was a way of saying, yeah, that’s me as well.

What have been some of your activities as an anarchist?

When I started off I was involved in student politics. At that time there was a recession in Ireland and there were a lot of cutbacks that affected students. And then I became involved in campaigning for abortion rights in Ireland and I joined a small anarchist group of students and then I met other anarchists in Ireland, and I joined another anarchist group, the Workers Solidarity Movement and I’ve been involved in that ever since. And within that group we campaign on various issues at various different times. So, for a long period it was anti-clerical struggles, for aborition rights, for free contraception, for free divorce. Now, recently it’s moved on to economic issues with the cut backs, so the struggles have changed as the political landscape has changed.

What is anarchism?

To me anarchism is about two different types of equality: there’s economic equality where the wealth of the world is shared equally. And then there’s equality of power where there aren’t power differentials between people. And I think that’s one of the strengths about anarchism in that it’s always focusing on these two issues, economics and power.

Why are anarchists against singularly powerful leaders?

I think anarchists are against leaders because they believe in the leadership potential of every single person. They believe that…they have a great faith in people’s skills and abilities to take control of their own lives. I think .having a leadership model where you have one person who has to make decisions over a whole range of issues is very wasteful of human creativity, so, for me, anarchists are against leaders because they believe in the creative ability of people to take control and for example, they recognise that people may be experts in one area, they’re not experts in another area, so it makes no sense to just have one person you know running everything on behalf of other people.

What would an anarchist world look like?

People do ask, well my mother asks me, what an anarchist world looks like, and it’s a really hard question to answer, because anarchism isn’t really so much a vision of what a world will look like, but it’s more a vision of how people will make decisions in their lives and how they will create their lives. So, when I think about an anarchist world I think okay, it’s a world where we want to maximise people’s potential, so, for example, we want to ensure that our children have the best possible education, an education that really nurtures them. Now, I don’t know anything about education, I don’t teach young kids. So an anarchist world would be the, a world in which the parents and teachers get to create their own curriculum in a way that benefits the children that they’re teaching and is aiming at nurturing. The same in medicine. An anarchist world will be one in which the doctors and nurses have control over their workplaces and create a health system that actually meets people’s needs.

So it’s a world where the people who are actually doing the work, who know best what needs to be done, actually can make the decisions on what needs to be done. Which is very different from what we have here. Usually anyone who works in the workplace, you have managers who tell you what to do and who usually know less about what you’re doing than you are, and the decisions they’re making are not based on good public service or good care, because it’s good for people. Usually they’re based on because it’s cheaper or because it’s faster, or it’s going to make a profit. So an anarchist world is one where the principle underlying society is not how best we make a profit, it’s how best can we run society in our own interests.

Why do anarchists see the fight for social liberties like freedom of movement as being linked to the fight for economic liberties like everyone getting to own the fruits of their own labor?

Anarchists are interested in removing the power inequalities as much as the economic inequalities. So anarchists would campaign against gender inequality, racism, and all the other power differentials that exist in society as much as they would against economic inequality. So, it’s not a case of one being more important than another. And I, as an anarchist woman, you find these, sometimes people would pose questions, what’s more important? Class or gender? And that to me is a meaningless question because I’m both a woman and a member of the working class, so it doesn’t make sense. I can’t say I’m one more than another. So I think anarchists struggle hand in hand on a number of issues and I find it strange that people find it impossible or strange to do that.

What got you interested in Mujeres Libres?

One of the movements that really inspired me from history is the movement called Mujeres Libres organization in Spain during the Spanish Revolution. This was an organization of anarchist women who organized as anarchists, as trade unionists, but also independently as women. What’s amazing about them is that a lot of them were really young, they were 13 or 14, and they were doing amazing things. They were running hospitals, they would go around Spain talking to people, and were running magazines. Most of them, we don’t actually know their names. There is a thing where you look for the most famous people in history, but for me politics is about ordinary people taking control of their lives and usually often you don’t know the names of those people. So I think one of the most inspiring groups I’ve come across is the Mujeres Libres group.

How optimistic are you that we will achieve an anarchist world?

In the WSM we always ask new members ‘are you an optimist or are you a pessimist?’ Within our organization there’s definitely people who think they will see anarchism in their lifetime and people who think they won’t. I’ve always been on the optimist side. But of course now I’m getting older haha. The thing I would say, the great thing about human history is it’s totally unpredictable and you never know what’s going to happen. This year, who would have predicted what happened in Egypt? And what’s happening in the Arab world? And when I was in my teens, you had the Singing Revolution, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, both things are really inspiring, so I know change can happen, I know it happened really quickly, so that gives me hope. I don’t think there’s going to be a revolution tomorrow, but you never know. So I guess I’m still an optimist.

What can each of us do to bring about an anarchist world?

In order to bring about anarchism it’s vitally important that we’re organised. We can fight in our daily lives but without coming together, it’s never going to do more than just change things for ourselves in a local way. So, I think we have to be organised, the second thing is we have to be really ambitious, we have to try and strive to do more than we are at the moment, to try and look for new areas of struggle. There’s an awful lot to be done, but the key issue is to be organized.

Anarchism Around The World

Below is a series of interviews, recorded for a documentary, never finished by its original producers, which hoped to show anarchism in all its forms around the world today and in history. But, I think it succeeds even better at that task as a video catalogue for those interested enough to find the clips that piqued their curiousity.

The playlists were already on kollectiva.media, so feel free to share that link with friends. I just wanted to create this article and put them on youtube to make them easier to find and more accessible to researchers.

Finally, this will be part of a series of posts where I try to help add to other people’s projects, and ideally get volunteers involved in a rare anarchist media archiving project. The next task will be making playlists out of a bunch of rare anarchist documentaries which Stuart Christie collected on his website over many years.  A lot of them are to do with the Spanish Civil War. So, if you like that idea or want to lend a hand, check out the spreadsheet, maybe share my tweet asking for help &/or contact me.

Playlist Previews

Click the ‘see more’ buttons to be directed to each playlist of clips on youtube. And you can scroll to the bottom if you’d just like to see a shorter text table of all the information.

Gabriel Kuhn

Author and translator.

Language: English

Country: Austria and Sweden

Felipe Correa

An organizer with the group Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário (OASL).

Language: English

Country: Brazil

Website: https://anarquismosp.org

Allan Antliff

Author and art historian at the University of Victoria, Canada.

Language: English

Country: Canada

Jose Antonio Gutierrez Danton

A contributor to anarkismo.net

Language: English

Country: Ireland

Website: http://anarkismo.net

Aileen O’Carroll

Language: English

An organiser with the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland

Country: Ireland

Website: https://wsm.ie

Donato Didero

Was an organiser with the Federazione dei Communisti Anarchici (FdCA). RIP

Language: English

Country: Italy

Website: https://fdca.it

Saul Newman

A political theorist & post-anarchist, who lectures at Goldsmiths Univeristy, in London.

Language: English

Country: UK

Tendency Covered: Egoist-Anarchism

Peter Marshall

A historian & philosopher.

Language: English

Country: UK

Website: https://petermarshall.net

Judith Suissa

Author of ‘Anarchism and Education’, and lecturer on the philosophy of education.

Language: English

Country: UK

Donald Rooum

Was a cartoonist and writer for Freedom Press. RIP

Language: English

Country: UK

Juan Carlos Mechoso

An organiser with the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU)

Language: English

Country: Uruguay

Website: https://ateneohn.wikidot.com

Suzy Subways

Writer for Prison Health News.

Language: English

Country: USA

Tendency Covered: Anarcha-Feminism

Lawrence Jarach

Co-editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed.

Language: English

Country: USA

Tendency Covered: Insurectionairy-Anarchism

Website: https://anarchymag.org

Howard J. Ehrlich

Language: English

Was a sociologist who founded and edited the journal Social Anarchism. RIP

Country: USA

Tendency Covered: Social-Anarchism

Website: https://socialanarchism.org

Lara Messersmith-Glavin

A contributer to the Institute for Anarchist Studies in Portland

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://anarchist-studies.org

Kenyon Zimmer

A historian who works at the University of Texas in Arlington

Language: English

Country: USA

Jean Pauline

A longterm organiser who co-founded the San Diego Peace Information Center.

Language: English

Country: USA

Barry Pateman

An anarchist historian and author, who helps run Kate Sharpley Library.

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://katesharpleylibrary.net

Cindy Milstein

An author and organiser with the Institute for Anarchist Studies

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://anarchist-studies.org

Joaquin Cienfuegos

An organiser with Anarchist People of Color & Copwatch L.A.

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://anarchistpeopleofcolor.tumblr.com & https://copwatchla.org

Tom Wetzel

An organiser with the Workers Solidarity Alliance.

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://workersolidarity.org


An organizer with CopWatch Los Angeles

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://copwatchla.org

Wayne Price

Author and activist.

Language: English

Country: USA

Kate Khatib

Author and organiser with AK Press & Red Emma’s Coffeeshop.

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://redemmas.org

Jen Rogue

Author and organiser with the Worker Solidarity Alliance.

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://workersolidarity.org

Audrey Goodfriend

Was a lifelong anarchist born into an anarchist family in the year 1920, who passed away in 2013.

Language: English

Country: USA

Joel Olson

Was an author and activist for Repeal Coalition & Bring the Ruckus. RIP

Language: English

Country: USA

Website: https://bringtheruckus.org

Biko Mutsaurwa

An organiser with Toyi Toyi Artz Kollective.

Language: English

Country: Zimbabwe

Mix/ Michelle

An organiser with Ativismo ABC.

Language: Brazilian Portuguese

Country: Brazil

Website: https://ativismoabc.org

Renato Ramos

An organiser with the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FARJ)

Language: Brazilian Portuguese

Country: Brazil

Website: https://farj.org

Annick Stevens

An organiser with Refractions Publishing.

Language: French

Country: France

Website: https://refractions.plusloin.org

Michel Némitz

An organiser with Espace Noir.

Language: German

Country: Switzerland

Website: https://espacenoir.ch

Daniela Zarro

A writer for anarca-bolo publishing.

Language: German

Country: Switzerland

Website: https://anarca-bolo.ch

Lia Didero

An organiser with the Federazione dei Communisti Anarchici (FdCA).

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

Website: https://fdca.it

Pablo Abufom

An organiser with Libreria Proyeccion.

Language: Spanish

Country: Chile

Website: https://libreriaproyeccion.cl

Full Table

Interviewee Description Language Country Tendency Covered Website
Gabriel Kuhn Author and translator English Austria and Sweden    
Felipe Correa An organizer with the group Organização Anarquista Socialismo Libertário (OASL). English Brazil   anarquismo sp .org
Allan Antliff Author and art historian at the University of Victoria, Canada. English Canada    
Jose Antonio Gutierrez Danton A contributor to anarkismo.net English Ireland    
Aileen O’Carroll An organiser with the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland English Ireland   wsm.ie
Donato Didero Was an organiser with the Federazione dei Communisti Anarchici (FdCA). RIP English Italy   fdca.it
Saul Newman A political theorist & post-anarchist, who lectures at Goldsmiths Univeristy, in London. English UK Egoist-Anarchism  
Peter Marshall A historian & philosopher English UK   peter marshall.net
Judith Suissa Author of Anarchism and Education, and lecturer on the philosophy of education. English UK    
Donald Rooum Cartoonist and writer for Freedom Press. English UK    
Juan Carlos Mechoso An organiser with the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU) English Uruguay   ateneohn. wikidot.com
Suzy Subways Writer for Prison Health News. English USA Anarcha-Feminism  
Lawrence Jarach Co-editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. English USA Insurectionairy-
anarchy mag.org
Howard J. Ehrlich Was a sociologist who founded and edited the journal Social Anarchism. RIP English USA Social-Anarchism social anarchism.org
Lara Messersmith-Glavin A contributer to the Institute for Anarchist Studies in Portland English USA   anarchist studies.org
Kenyon Zimmer A historian who works at the University of Texas in Arlington English USA    
Jean Pauline A longterm organiser who co-founded the San Diego Peace Information Center. English USA    
Barry Pateman An anarchist historian and author, who helps run Kate Sharpley Library. English USA   kate sharpley library .net
Cindy Milstein An author and organiser with the Institute for Anarchist Studies English USA   anarchist studies.org
Joaquin Cienfuegos An organiser with Anarchist People of Color & Copwatch L.A. English USA   anarchist people of color tumblr
Tom Wetzel An organiser with the Workers Solidarity Alliance. English USA   worker solidarity.org
DiAngelo An organizer with CopWatch Los Angeles English USA   copwatchla.org
Wayne Price Author and activist. English USA    
Kate Khatib Author and organiser with AK Press & Red Emma’s Coffeeshop. English USA   red emmas.org
Jen Rogue Author and organiser with the Worker Solidarity Alliance. English USA   worker solidarity.org
Audrey Goodfriend Was a lifelong anarchist born into an anarchist family in the year 1920, who passed away in 2013. English USA    
Joel Olson Was an author and activist for Repeal Coalition & Bring the Ruckus. RIP English USA   bring the ruckus.org
Biko Mutsaurwa An organiser with Toyi Toyi Artz Kollective. English Zimbabwe    
Mix/ Michelle An organiser with Ativismo ABC Brazilian Portugese Brazil   ativismoabc.org
Renato Ramos An organiser with FARJ Brazilian Portugese Brazil   farj.org
Annick Stevens An organiser with Refractions Publishing French France   refractions. plusloin.org
Michel Némitz An organiser with Espace Noir German Switzerland   espacenoir.ch
Daniela Zarro An writer for anarca-bolo publishing. German Switzerland   anarca-bolo.ch
Lia Didero An organiser with the Federazione dei Communisti Anarchici (FdCA). Italian Italy   fdca.it
Pablo Abufom An organiser with Libreria Proyeccion Spanish Chile   libreria proyeccion.cl

Missing Interviews

Sadly, whoever was uploading the interviews closed shop at 32, but there are still so many more goodies I think it would be great to upload. The email for the documentary is not working, so if anyone knows who it is who had the files and can check if they still have them floating around a harddrive somewhere, let me know – contact me. (Edit: I’ve emailed Aragorn & Stefanie now who will likely have them.)

Here’s the full list of missing interviews:

  • Jonathan Payne – Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (www.zabalaza.net), Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Warren McGregor – Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (www.zabalaza.net), Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Shachaf Polakow – Anarchists against the Wall (www.awalls.org), Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Anna – non-aligned anarchist, Moscow, Russia
  • Renata – FASP (now OASL – http://www.anarquismosp.org), Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Josimas – Anarcho-punk, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Pina – Ativismo ABC (www.ativismoabc.org), Santo Andre, Brazil.
  • José Carlos Morel – Long-time anarchist militant, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Bruno Rocha – Federação Anarquista Gaúcha, Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Paulo Capra – Deriva publishing collective, Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Aline – Coletivo Ação Anti-Sexista (www.anarcopunk.org/acaoantisexista), Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Vincent Acrata – Moinho Negro (www.anarcopunk.org/moinhonegro), Porto Alegre, Brazil
  • Dremko – Ateneo Herbert Nieto (ateneohn.wikidot.com), Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Victoria Toja – Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (federacionanarquistauruguaya.com.uy), Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Mario Remedios – Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (federacionanarquistauruguaya.com.uy), Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Sebastian – Founding member of Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (federacionanarquistauruguaya.com.uy), Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Pablo – Tango teacher, Federación Libertária Argentina (www.federacionlibertaria.org), Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Silvana – Mapuche anarchist, Santiago, Chile
  • Ignacio – Estrategia Libertaria, Santiago, Chile
  • Pamela Quiroga – teacher, Santiago, Chile
  • Coni – Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios (www.fel-chile.org/blog), Santiago, Chile
  • Mario – El Surco, Santiago, Chile
  • John Imani – Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (revolutionaryautonomouscommunities.blogspot.com), L.A., USA
  • Ramsey Kanaan – PM Press (www.pmpress.org), Berkeley, USA
  • Tom Older – Bound Together Books (boundtogetherbooks.wordpress.com), San Francisco, USA
  • Starhawk – author of The Fifth Sacred Thing (www.starkhawk.org), permaculturalist and witch, San Francisco, USA
  • David Rovics – singer and songwriter (www.davidrovics.com), Portland, USA
  • Zimya Tomstrand – anarchist film maker and environmental activist. Seattle, USA
  • Tephra – Seasol (www.seasol.net), Seattle, USA
  • Matt – Seasol (www.seasol.net), Seattle, USA
  • Alex – Common Cause (www.linchpin.ca), Toronto
  • Jesse Cohn – Valparaiso, Indiana, USA
  • Ryan Robert Mitchell – co-organiser of 2011 Toronto North American Anarchist Studies Network conference (www.naasn.org), Canada
  • Drew Sully – Phoenix, USA
  • Stacy – Sallydarity, Arizona, USA
  • Kevin Jose – Oodham anarchist, Arizona, USA
  • Klee Benally – Taala Hooghan Infoshop (www.taalahooghan.org), Flagstaff, Arizona, so-called USA
  • Steve Best – author (drstevebest.wordpress.com/), El Paso, USA
  • Abraham DeLeon – University lecturer in San Antonio, Texas
  • Frank Fernandez – author, Florida, USA
  • Flint Arthur – Baltimore, USA
  • John Duda – Red Emmas (www.redemmas.org), Baltimore, USA
  • Jim Fleming – Autonomedia (www.autonomedia.org), New York, USA
  • Ariel – New York, USA
  • Christine Karatnytsky – New York, USA
  • Joshua Stephens – Institute for Anarchist Studies (www.anarchist-studies.org), New York, USA
  • Deric Shannon – Transformative Studies Institute (www.transformativestudies.org), Hartford, USA
  • Chris Spannos – Z Communications (www.zmag.org), Rhode Island, USA
  • Iain Mackay – author of The Anarchist FAQ (www.infoshop.org/AnAnarchistFAQ) and The Proudhon Reader, London, UK
  • Ian Bone, Martin Roid and Andy Meinke at Freedom Books – Martin (WAG – whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com), Andy Meinke (Freedom – http://www.freedompress.org.uk), Ian Bone (Class War – ianbone.wordpress.com), filmed as a group at Freedom Books in London, UK
  • Nick Heath – Anarchist Federation (www.afed.org.uk), London, UK
  • Jamie Heckert – researcher on anarchism and sexuality, London, UK
  • Rudolf Terland Bjørnerem – Counterpower (motmakt.no), Norway
  • Laure Akai – member of ZSP (zsp.net.pl), Poland
  • Andrew Flood – Workers Solidarity Movement (www.wsm.ie), Dublin, Ireland
  • Ariel Silvera – RAG (Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group – ragdublin.blogspot.com), Dublin, Ireland
  • Kevin Doyle – Founding member of Workers Solidarity Movement (www.wsm.ie), Cork, Ireland
  • Mariann Inanc – Infoladen (www.infoladen.ch), Biel, Switzerland
  • p.m. – author of bolo bolo, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Indignous – Soundz of the South (soundzofthesouth.blogspot.com), Cape Town, South Africa
  • Anele Afrikah – Soundz of the South (soundzofthesouth.blogspot.com), Cape Town, South Africa

Is Freeganism a Positive Form of Advocacy for Legal Animal Rights? | Ishkah Vs. Trashcarcass

Here’s the full debate:

And here’s a condensed text version of the discussion below:

Table of Contents

  • Debate Proposition
  • My Opening Statement
  • My Main Arguments
  • My Opening Summary
  • Choice of terms
  • What Is the Effectiveness of Advocatng Animal Rights At Food Not Bombs Stalls
  • Treating animals as a commodity
  • Cannibalism comparison
  • Do animals worry about events past their death?
  • More ethical uses for the rescued animal material
  • Slippery Slope
  • Devaluing the homeless by offering them less valuable options
  • Grey areas and not coming off as dogmatic
  • Appendix – Formal Arguments
  • References

Debate Proposition

Stone: We have Ishkah and Trashcarcass here for this debate. Ishkah is going to be taking the view that “using rescued animal products at food not bomb stalls has been a positive form of advocacy towards the goal of attempting to end all unjustified captivity” and Trashcarcass is going to be taking the opposition.

My Opening Statement

Theo: So the main thing I’m gonna be arguing is that when discussing ethical grey areas to veganism I think it’s important not to look like dogmatists, so I’m going to try and ground the discussion around using rescued animal material in the real world of food not bomb stalls.

And, we might descend into an abolitionist vs. welfarist debate, where I defend harm reduction, but I’m also going to argue that abolition can coincide with welfare reform, such that food not bomb stalls should be viewed as the revolutionary vanguard of the abolitionist movement for creating radical grassroots communities that are principled, serve the needs of people worst off and so, can rival carnist culture.

Finally, it’s going to be a niche philosophy debate, but hopefully it will give people the tools to defend rescuing animal material and so, to stay open to lots of strategies for bringing about a vegan world.

My Main Arguments

Theo: Firstly it can be great animal rights advocacy in rare circumstances like so; by setting up a Food not Bombs stall in the town centre and putting up a vegan sign in front of a big pan of vegan stew and a freegan sign infront of rescued bread. The vegan sign can provoke lots of interesting conversations about the ethics of breeding and killing animals. While the freegan sign can get people talking about a further layer of if it is true that harming animals for their meat, milk and eggs was necessary to feed the population, how come so very much meat, milk and eggs ended up rotting in supermarket skips instead? Which can provoke further conversation about the evils of producing such an energy intensive product like meat to just become food waste, while people are starving around the world.

Secondly non-human animals we farm don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do as a species norm.

Thirdly there exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive, for example in Tibet, having your energy transferred into that of a bird is seen as a beautiful thing or green burials where your body can more easily become nutrients for both animals and plants. So then, healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is also likely possible.

And finally, even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products (in the same way as if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again), that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment i.e. it’s not comparable to cannibalism where you’re causing worse quality of life in other humans by normalizing it or normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated as neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights or causing harm to anyone.

My Opening Summary

Theo: So, to go back to the food not bombs stall example that we’re debating. Here’s a bunch of topics that come up on on a lot of food not bombs stalls which make it a positive form of animal rights advocacy:

We cooked vegan soup, so no profits needed to go to an industry which breeds and kills animals.

Here’s some freegan bread with milk powder in it which was rescued, so no harm to animals and it’s carbon negative.

Isn’t it amazing they kept those cows captive and milked them only for it to go in the trash. So that’s one sign farming animals isn’t necessary to feed the population, if so very much meat, milk and eggs end up rotting in supermarket skips instead.

Isn’t it sad that politicians subsidize such an energy intensive product like meat to just become food waste, while people are starving around the world.

Choice of terms

Stacy: So, firstly I have a problem with the term freegan and that would be because it so closely relates itself to the word vegan and I don’t think they have anything to do with each other. There’s other words for example like frugivore, why does it have to be freegan? Because if you say that to somebody it sounds like it’s similar to veganism in that if it’s free, it’s okay, and still vegan. And I would say in most situations it wouldn’t be. Veganism is a moral philosophy.

Theo: I actually think it’s really positive to promote freeganism as a term for helping explain veganism because if we go by the colloquial definition of veganism meaning ‘an animal products boycott’, it does include freeganism. And it gets back to the historically accurate reason for why the vegan society came about. It would also have broader appeal for other liberation causes like anti-racism and anti-sexism to see it as a strategy of action which is useful for their struggles also.

What Is the Effectiveness of Advocatng Animal Rights At Food Not Bombs Stalls

Stacy: I’ve worked next to food not bombs people, I’ve worked at feeding the homeless and I happen to know that the majority of people that come there are indeed homeless, but there are some people that just come there because it’s free food. And some of those people, if not most, don’t really care what it is, so having these moral discussions with them, I’m not really sure how far you’re going to get with that.

Theo: Well, I would just counter that if done well, it can be a real community building exercise. You can get people joining learning to cook and put time into rescuing all this amazing food. People have time to read political material you put out while they’re eating their food. And I just have had lots of great conversations and made positive connections.

By showing slaughterhouse footage, we’re making people sad, even though we wish we didn’t have to. So, by doing food not bombs stalls as well, it’s this really important counter balance of showing the positive side to what you can gain from this community.

Treating animals as a commodity

Stacy: You say ‘look at all this waste, why did they breed these animals for it to go to waste?’ I think you’re only going to reinforce the idea in their head of how they need to be feeding animals to humans. ‘It’s not going to waste’, as you said, ‘if you are feeding it to humans, it’s okay.’

Theo: Well, that’s an environmental point, but I think it does tie in positively to both human and animal rights, in that I’m talking about the evils of producing such an energy intensive product like meat to just become food waste, while people are starving around the world and while wildlife habitat like the rainforest is getting torn down to produce these products, when we could just eat plants for less land use, so, protect and rewild habitat for more animals to be able to express their capabilities in.

So, yeah I just disagree with the idea that trying to get people to believe ‘it’s always wrong to feed animals to humans’ will help us get to a vegan world faster.

You have to explain why you think it would be against ours or animals’ best interests.

Cannibalism comparison

Stacy: Vegan footsoldier made this analogy comparing freeganism to cannibalism about how these cannibals were killing these children and eating them. And some human rights activists caught up with them, but when they didn’t get to one of the children quickly enough and the child died from their injuries he went home with his leg and ate this child’s leg so they wouldn’t go to waste.

And then you came back with an analogy that had to do with human rights activists and female genital mutilation, I’m not really sure if I followed because they didn’t leave with a body part at the end, so I would think that would make more sense for a freegan analogy.

Theo: Yeah Footsoldier made the same point, about how he thought the story should end with the human rights activists performing genital mutilation on their own child to be a fair comparison.

But, if I had ended the story like that it would have just been the same story almost word for word with the same effect of implicitly shaming people for actions which could mistakenly be attributed to furthering a harmful culture. So, for his story analogy, carnism/speciesism & freeganism, but in mine sexism & girls pressured into shaving their legs.

With the video I made I wanted to make explicit that you can have all the same intense disgust reactions to an evil action done without people’s consent like killing children to eat them, and similarly with genital mutilation. But that the comparison to eating rescued human meat doesn’t follow for all rescued animal products because you can have healthy human cultures rescuing animal products in which no one is suffering a worse quality of life worrying about their interests being disrespected after their death. In the same way as you can have people choosing to shave their legs without harming anyone regardless of if there exists a harmful patriarchal culture which pressures some people to do it, like with forced genital mutilation.

So you can imagine that the parents getting FGM performed on their daughter is one trajegectory the parents could have gone down if you like, but my story diverges into a tale about how instead they simply had to deal with their daughter asking to be able to shave thier legs, and how it’s different in the same degree to genital mutilation as freeganism is to cannibalism.

Stacy: Well, I think the way a culture of cannibalism differs from freeganism is because eating animal products is still the norm, and I think in all these instances it is a decision by a human being whether it be upon another human being or another animal it’s still humans making these decisions, it’s never the other animal making this decision in any of those cases and therefore I think this is a human-centric view.

Theo: Right, but the sexist culture of women being emotionally pressured into shaving their legs is also the norm and yet women can still choose to do it for reasons that don’t have to do with being emotionally pressured into it. So, in that way being a freegan in a carnist culture is more similar to choosing to shave your legs in a sexist culture, than it is to cannibalism.

And again there is no mental capability for animals to make a choice about how they would desire other humans or other animals treat them after they’re dead, so there can be no issue of fairness or justice either way. Animals do make the decision to eat human flesh. And we even encourage it in Tibetan culture. So, that’s a sign that we’re not necessarily promoting a culture of devaluing animals by eating animal material when there exists cultures valorising animals eating us. We are when we kill them because there is a clear going against their interests, but there are no interests to go against in the case of what they would desire other people or animals do with them after they’re dead.

Do animals worry about events past their death?

Stacy: You made a point about how you think ‘animals aren’t worrying about events past their death, they aren’t suffering a worse quality of life imagining they’ll be eaten by humans after they’re dead’. Well, actually I think that non-human animals do worry about being killed all the time, they have an instinct to fear being preyed upon and far more so than humans do.

Also, we don’t worry about humans eating us after our death, I know I don’t sit around worrying about my death or what’s going to happen to my body after I die, so would that be reasonable grounds for somebody to kill me?

Theo: So, definitely animals worry about being killed, for instance, if you were cutting into a deer corpse and eating the raw meat in front of another deer, then I’m sure it would provoke a fear response in the deer.

I’m not talking about it being ok to unjustifiably kill or keep animals captive and I’m not arguing that every single situation involving eating rescued animal material is ethical, the same way you can be buying plant material and still be doing something unethical in specific situations.

The reason for me to never eat human meat is because someone in the world could experience anguish on a long-term basis worrying that would happen to them after they’re dead, even if it’s irrational. For instance, say a friend had to have their arm amputated and I asked for the severed arm to cook it up because I thought it was a funny thing. If I did that in a hypothetical vacuum I think that would be fine, but I wouldn’t do that because I understand that we live in social contracts and other humans could experience anguish that I would treat a human like that and then worry what might happen to them.

I don’t think animals are experiencing worry on that level, they worry that they’re going to be killed, they might experience fear if somebody was eating another animal right in front of them, but I don’t think they’re experiencing this worse quality of life worrying about what’s going to happen after the dead.

Even if it’s just one person in 7 billion. It would be against my interest to possibly cause that one person harm, but the fact that it just can’t happen in animals means that it’s not an ethical issue for me, as long as I’m it’s virtuous in that it’s carbon negative, like less land needs to be taken up for growing edible material, and if I’m accounting for all these externalities like being strong willed enough not to fall down a slippery slope of habits.

Stacy: Again, I just think probably animals are more concerned about what happens to their body than humans, just from the way that we treat our own bodies, you know we smoke cigarettes, do drugs, we do all these extreme sports that can cause bodily injury, we live like there’s no tomorrow, especially when we’re young.

These animals live in constant fear for their safety, especially the animals that are preyed upon and it’s instinctual for them. I think we can’t possibly know what they are thinking, so to assume that it’s okay to use their bodies after they die, I don’t really think that’s an argument because like I said I don’t care what happens in my body after I die but I can make that decision I have that autonomy and I don’t think it’s fair for us to make that decision for them.

Theo: Ok, so there’s a scientific experiment called ‘the false belief test’ where they’ve discovered only recently that great apes can have theory of mind, in that they can anticipate complex thoughts another animal is having in rare circumstances.

They originally did this test on toddlers to see what age we start to individuate. It’s hard to explain in text, so I’ll just link a short 2 minute video on the experiment:

Anyway, this is only something that chimpanzees can do and a few other great apes, it’s called theory of mind. Where you understand what other people’s intentions will be other than your own & they’re only thinking about this in rare circumstances. And we aren’t relying on theory of mind for most of our physical interactions throughout the day, so it is this rare development. We do much more predicting what other people are going to do based on stereotypes of patterns we’ve observed or what we would do when presented with similar situations.

So, all this is to say that we plan for after our death, we have gravestones and we do all these things because we know how we want to be remembered, we’re planning for our legacy and how we want to be respected and how we want to plan for that to happen, but animals just aren’t doing this on that level.

They fear for how they might die, so we’re definitely right to be vegan and not unjustified kill animals and not unjustifiably keep them captive which hurts their well-being, but we just don’t need be concerned about their non-interests, unless we’re talking about our own interests, and whether it’s for our own dignity whether it’s self-harm for us.

We don’t need to be worried about something which animals are literally incapable of doing in terms of worrying about other people’s intentions after they’re dead.

So that’s what I think the science says.

More ethical uses for the rescued animal material

Stacy: Why not feed rescued animal material to wildlife or stray animals that have no moral agency? Or put it on the compost?

Theo: That is one option, but what about having moral agency should stop us from eating rescued animal material, why is it morally wrong?

Also for some items like bread which you might eat anyway, you’re getting more pleasure out of the material specifically designed for humans, than an animal would. And you’d be saving the environment more by putting that energy to good use in consuming it yourself and using a compost loo, than just putting it straight on the compost.

Slippery Slope

Stacy: I had a goddaughter who used to dumpster dive and eat roadkill with her boyfriend. They both considered themselves vegans and I said it was a slippery slope, it was going to lead them back to thinking it’s okay to eat flesh and sure enough the next thing you know they’re eating from fast food restaurants. So, I think it’s the same with food not bombs stalls.

Theo: So, yeah definitely in the psychology of habits that can happen, but it can also go the other way, for instance, if someone is really into cheese because cheese has monosodium glutamate crystals, which is like opium, so if someone wanted to become vegan, and they have no aversion to eating rescued cheese, then it could be a helping hand in encouraging them to stay strong in their decision to go vegan, by just slowly tapering it off. I know I was completely stripped of the value of baked goods, like croissants and doughnuts when they existed as this mountain in the kitchen of a squat I lived in. Knowing it was this sugar crash I could have whenever I wanted, I stopped seeing it as such a hot option. Like some people on diets have a set time where they can eat one treat a day that they can look forward to, whereas before they would eat sweets whenever they wanted.

Stacy: But, what if you go from thinking it’s okay to eat it from a food not bomb stall to eating some birthday cake at friends’ party because otherwise it might get thrown in the bin, I mean when does it stop? I wouldn’t because it’s a moral philosophy I’ve got to stick with.

Theo: But, what is the principle behind the reason never to eat animal products, just that it’s a slippery slope?

The principle argument for why I’m an animal rights advocate is if the wonder that we experience in viewing wild animals is not ‘how similar to us they are’, but their ‘real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value’ and one sufficient reason we grant this freedom at least to a basic extent to humans is they have a desire to achieve what they find valuable then; the fact non-human animals experience this desire too means we ought extend these freedoms to animals.

So, a holistic world-view of not wanting to reduce both the quality and quantity of positive experiences humans can have with animals, as well as animals with other animals for low-order pleasures such as taste/texture.

So, just because I might use rescued animal products as a form of advocacy for animal rights, doesn’t mean I can’t also get my friends to respect the principle reason I’m an animal rights advocate by not buying more cake on the pretense that I’ll not want to see it wasted. The same way just because I showed an interest in horses, I would still be capable of making sure to let my friends know not to book any horse riding holidays, and even if they did like with the birthday cake, it’s just a rare situation of friends getting confused and an opportunity to help them get a deeper understanding where they didn’t have one before.

Devaluing the homeless by offering them less valuable options

Stacy: You’re kind of treating homeless people as scavengers, like they’ll take what they can get and perhaps that is true, but is it really fair to put them in that situation? I’ve actually met some homeless people that did not like the fact that they couldn’t choose to be vegan, so I think that does hurt human dignity in that sense to not just give them the vegan food.

Theo: Well, I see the meaning behind veganism is that it’s an animal products boycott. I think people can go further in being animal rights advocates. But, so I wouldn’t be able to relate to why a homeless person desired not to even eat, for instance, rescued bread with whey in it. So, it would be like meeting a homeless Hare Krishna who didn’t want to eat garlic or onions. If it’s that rare, and I would feel comfortable eating it myself, I wouldn’t feel the need to cook food with those rare people in mind. Even if that trace amount of whey was unhealthy for me, it would be to the same extent I’d desire to eat dark chocolate.

Stacy: But, hospitals are not looking to get you better, because they want to keep you as a customer. People get stuck in these systems of being ill all the time, keep going to the hospital, then they owe everything that they earn to hospitals and pharmacies and it keeps them poor and that cycle gets pushed on to the next generation and over and over again. Now, if we’re pushing unhealthy animal products onto homeless people is that fair?

Theo: But, it’s just such a minute amount in that bread, it’s a binding agent.

Stacy: But, where’s the line we draw? It’s a minute amount in that bread, but what if you found a quiche, you’re gonna tell me it’s okay to throw away a quiche, but it’s not okay to throw away the bread?

Theo: The line is it would be against my interests to eat that quiche because it’s unhealthy, so I wouldn’t offer it to other people. The same way there’s one line with plant products, in that I encourage people to boycott animal products because it’s one easy way people can avoid profiting an evil industry, but there will be 1000s of other lines it would be good to draw also around plant foods like an Israeli boycott and just avoiding luxury foods, so that you can spend your money better elsewhere.

And it’s one way of helping the environment by being carbon negative and freeing up more land for wildlife habitat.

Grey areas and not coming off as dogmatic

Theo: I think it’s really important to be open about grey areas where we have exceptions to the rule. Like I know people who have gone out to Syria to fight ISIS and this is a really extreme gray area where they’re vegan and they tried not to eat any animal material out there and they wanted to go out there to help fight ISIS and free people and from that tyranny, to save people from being harmed in that way and they’ve had to resort to eating animal material because the militia hasn’t rationed enough plant products, so they’ve had to eat like spam out of a tin.

So, that was a way of achieving more well-being in the world by fighting other other liberation causes in this extreme situations, so I think it’s good to acknowledge these things.

Stacy: Well, I don’t blame the people in the andes that were in the plane crash for eating people that died.

But, when we take something that came from someone who was murdered, I think that that’s wrong, if we are able to make another choice, I think that it’s the wrong choice to take a product of murder.

Theo: What about roadkill then? Would it be ethically wrong to do that?

Stacy: If you don’t have to you shouldn’t. If you were stranded and there’s nothing around, I wouldn’t be mad at you for eating roadkill.

Theo: But, so whether the animal was killed unjustifiably isn’t relevant then.

I just think it’s important to admit grey areas, as it helps show what ideal situation we’re working towards.

I think people come off looking insane when they bite the bullet on some grey areas like for instance when some vegans say they would rather accept a 30-year lifespan if the vegan diet was really harmful to them.

Stacy: I say that and I would stick by that, but that’s for me, I’m not saying that I would judge somebody else if they were in a survival situation.

Theo: But, if you want to be the change you want to see in the world, and people are looking to you to understand where is that intuition coming from, why is that a desirable thing for you to take that stance?

Stacy: It’s my own moral choice for myself, it would be a spiritual choice I guess.

Theo: Okay, well I mean the way I advocate that people become animal rights advocates, is that they can join this community and political movement which seeks to gain collective legal rights for animals to have a refuge in dense wildlife habitat where they aren’t subject to human cruelty. But, I’m fine with my definition being softer on for example subsistence hunters. I’ve got a video on my channel of Penan tribes people in Indonesia explaining how it would be repulsive to them to keep animals in captivity to farm, and I think this is great animal rights advocacy.

So, I just think we should be working towards this world where we’re able to preserve and rewild more habitat for wild animals to express their capabilities in and live full lives. And it’s good that we’re moving towards a situation where where we can design diets and live really healthy lives with less land use, but the reason hunting would be against my interests is it would be a form of self-harm for me to kill an animal when I know that I can eat plant foods, but if veganism only gave me a 30-year lifespan, that would be more self-harm to me to not hunt animals, so long as they’re living long life in the wild. So, I just don’t see how this intuition is compatible with the ideal vision that it’s useful to advocate other people invest in.

Stacy: Actually, I’m more of a misanthrope, so I would say just get rid of the humans.

Theo: Well, yeah that’s all I’d say, when you’re taking these stances against rescued animal products and being willing to die at 30 if the vegan diet was that harmful, I just don’t think that’s appealing to people in terms of advocating veganism and animal rights, so that’s why these grey areas are important I think.

Stacy: That’s because humans have human interests or self-interests.

Theo: But, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Stacy: My philosophy is more altruistic in that I’d rather the human race die out and let the animals live their lives.

Theo: But, we could ideally be good caretakers, like rescuing and releasing wildlife who were injured. So, we can play this really positive role in the world for our own self-interest and for other animals’ interests by staying alive and working towards this vision of looking after ourselves and also providing wildlife habitat for animals, which can include using rescued animal material in our animal rights advocacy. Anyway, I’ll end it there.

Appendix #1 – The Animal citizens Critique of Freeganism

I found this cool paper critiquing freeganism after the discussion called The freegan challenge to veganism.

My response would be I understand the basic intuition that you wouldn’t like to be gaining sustenance or pleasure from a domesticated animals remains where you would have liked to consider that animal a kind of citizen of your community who you would like to give funerary rights to. But, I think it’s more respectful to think of them like their wild ancestors, where it would be normal for other animals to eat them after they’re dead.

Any legal rights we fight to afford domesticated animals should be shaped by a long-term vision of letting them go extinct in habitat where they can best express their capabilities, choose their social relationships and are protected from predators because we were the cause of their hereditary deformities that make them more vulnerable to predators.

To this end, if a person desired to eat rescued non-human animal flesh and it was healthy for them to do so, then it would be a positive character virtue on their part to do so because if it had gotten eaten by less intelligent animals like maggots which can survive on any food like rotting vegetables or even just composted, then:

  1. It would be much less dignity than you could show the animal by putting that energy to use in the value of the happy flourishing you could achieve yourself and in how you would be setting an example for others. And…
  2. It would be treating the animals’ final remains more similar to the way the animals’ wild ancestors would have been treated after death. So, with more dignity than the way we bred infantile traits into them and with more dignity than the toxic relationship we would be perpetuating by anthropomorphically infantilising them as infant humans who could have grown up to be people who could suffer a worse quality of life worrying about how other people might intend to treat their body after their death.

Appendix #2 – Formal Arguments

Here’s my formulation of an anti-freegan argument which is IMO unsound:

A1) Kant’s Indirect Principle Against Advocating For Freeganism

P1) If I accept Kant’s axioms then I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals

P2) If I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals then I would agree that treating non human animals without dignity would harm myself

P3) If I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals then I have a moral duty to not harm myself

P4) If I agree that treating non human animals without dignity would harm myself and that I have a moral duty to not harm myself then I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P5) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should reject consuming animal products (as it is the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

P6) If I should reject consuming animal products then I shouldn’t promote freeganism (as to do so would constitute promoting self-harm)

P7) I accept Kant’s axioms

C) Therefore I should be against freeganism

Through most virtue ethics & consquentialist frameworks it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the ethical issue with eating animal bodies is when you fund the industry which breeds and kills these animals, cutting short their interests to express their capabilities to their full in the wild. And that if non-human animals aren’t experiencing worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, then there’s no ethical issue to freeganism.

Through some deontological frameworks however, you might think you should reject consuming all animal products on principle as you feel it is the antithesis of treating animals with dignity.

So the arguments I’d suggest you use on such a person is firstly you could use a simple comparison to argue the way the person is applying dignity is a category error, like I do in the story analogy by saying:

It probably will be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by thrown out animal products. And it would be great if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again!

But at the end of the day, it’s not like cannibalism, where you’d be causing worse quality of life in other humans by foretelling a gruesome ending. And the same goes for normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated. Both ideas are barbaric, and rightly rejected.

Neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights, so I don’t really see why people ought not do it.

And in formal logic terms:

A2) Rejecting the utility of culturally specific disgust reactions

P1) Non-human animals don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do.

P2) IF there exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive (for example in Tibet, having your energy transferred into that of a bird is seen as a beautiful thing or green burials where your body can more easily become nutrients for both animals and plants) THEN healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is also likely possible

P3) There exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive

P4) If non-human animals don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do AND healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is likely possible THEN even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products (in the same way as if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again), that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment (i.e. it’s not comparable to cannibalism where you’re causing worse quality of life in other humans by normalizing it or normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated as neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights)

P5) IF (even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products, that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment) THEN (IF I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity THEN I should not reject consuming animal products [as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity])

P6) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or secondly without even challenging their gut disgust reaction to thinking it would be treating the animal without dignity you could try something close to a consequentialist argument:

A3) Refutation of P5 of A1 using Tom Regan’s worse-off principle

P1) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should promote freeganism on rare occasions where it’s an effective advocacy tool at encouraging people to stop buying animal products because the principle that I should avoid very minor self-harm in the disgust it brings to mind when advocating shouldn’t override the principle that it’s immoral to pass up easy opportunities to encourage people to stop buying animal products (which leads to the breeding and killing of animals) because I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which everyone passed up on those opportunities, so I should act according to that maxim by which I can at the same time will that it should become a universal law

P2) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P3) P1 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or thirdly you could you could try challenging the necessity of the disgust reaction:

A4) Kant’s Indirect Principle For Advocating For Freeganism

P1) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity THEN I should promote freeganism on rare occasions where it’s an effective advocacy tool at encouraging people to stop buying animal products because although killing an animal isn’t treating the animal with dignity, eating an animal to prevent waste is, because you’re eating food that would otherwise have been thrown out, so less food needs to be produced, causing less harm to the environment AND if it had gone to the landfill it might have gotten eaten by maggots which can survive on any food like rotting vegetables, but it would be much less dignity than you could show the animal by putting that energy to use in achieving happy flourishing yourself and setting an example for others.

P2) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P3) P1 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or finally you could try nudging them away from deontology with a kind of virtue ethics argument a la W.D. Ross:

A5) Refutation of P5 of A1 using W.D.Ross’s principle of prima facie duties

P1) If I accept W.D.Ross’s theory of prima facie duties THEN I accept any felt obligation is a prima facie duty, though it can be overridden depending on the circumstances by another one, that doesn’t mean that the original obligation disappears, it simply means that it’s defeasible and it usually continues to operate in the background.

P2) If I accept any felt obligation is a prima facie duty, though it can be overridden depending on the circumstances by another one, that doesn’t mean that the original obligation disappears, it simply means that it’s defeasible and it usually continues to operate in the background THEN I accept when I have a felt obligation that talking positively about the consumption of animal products is disgusting and would be an act of self-harm to myself AND I learn about people using freeganism as an effective advocacy tool in turning people vegan who wouldn’t otherwise have considered it, such that I now feel a stronger felt obligation to do the same that the duty to do the latter is overriding, but I’m going to work extra hard to advocate for veganism such that I can know I’ve contributed to a future world in which no one needs to talk about the positive effects of consuming animal products, because the initial obligation still operates in the background even though it was overridden.

P3) I accept W.D.Ross’s theory of prima facie duties

P4) P2 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

P5) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)


Re; ‘Freeganism Is Evil’ – A Pro-Freegan Story Analogy

The idea for the analogy came from this great video called Thoughts On Freeganism by Catherine Klein:

“I understand that shaving my legs and my armpits and everything is a sexist double standard, why are women expected to be completely hairless in order to be seen as attractive? It doesn’t make sense and I think it’s totally badass when women break this norm and go all natural. It does make me question my choices like I probably should be like fuck the patriarchy and stop shaving, just like I probably should be horrified by my leather boots and throw them out because one could argue that shaving your legs is an example of internalized oppression, but at the end of the day, neither of my choices here are causing direct harm to anyone, so I don’t really see changing my ways as a moral necessity.”

Freeganism article

Freeganism video catalogue

Case Revisited – Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s Lingering Influence in 2021

Kelley and I discuss the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and his life. We discuss how his anti-technology beliefs and extreme outlook resonate with events and radical, anti-government movements in this current day and age. And finally we explore what lessons can be learned by looking at this case in hindsight.

See the full video and transcript below. I edited the text slightly for clarity’s sake, just to remove filler words and put anything I forgot to say in.


  • Intro – Who Is The Unabomber?
    • Some key life moments
    • Separation From Parents As A Baby
    • Loneliness After Being Moved Forward A Year At School
    • Psych Experiments For The CIA
    • Sex Change Plans & First Desire To Kill (A Psychiatrist)
    • First Parcel Bomb
    • Plan To Kill A Date Who Broke Off Their Romance
    • Offer to stop bombing for newspapers publishing his manifesto
    • Arrest
  • Contents of the manifesto
  • Ethical justifications for guerrilla war
  • Theory vs. Action
  • Primitivists, Conspiracists & The Fascist Creep
  • Dogmatism
  • Prison Reform
  • What lessons can we learn about how to do activism better?
  • Extra Details We Didn’t Have Time To Cover
    • More Details About The First Parcel Bomb
    • Relief At Being Able To Kill People With His Bombs
    • Court
  • Further Reading

Intro – Who Is The Unabomber?

Theo: The unabomber was the nickname the FBI gave to an unknown serial killer who started out by sending mail-bombs to universities and airlines, so first letter of university, the two first letters of airlines, plus bomber to get unabomber.

He’s called a homegrown terrorist because he targeted places in the country he grew up, and:

“over the course of 17 years he planted or mailed at least 16 bombs. He killed 3 people and wounded 24. He wasn’t a religious fundamentalist, but he was a fundamentalist. His enemy was, essentially, modern society. He grew up in Chicago, attended Harvard, but he wound up living alone in a remote cabin in the Montana woods. He was arrested in 1996 after one of the most notorious and longest manhunts in history, and he was sentenced to life in prison.”

And I think he’s 75 now, so still alive, still pumping out letters and books, propagandizing for the primitivist revolution.

Kelley: Now, I’m really excited to kind of get into a little bit of what was going on inside of his brain, I’ve kind of unceremoniously titled this in my own head; ‘true crime meets political activism and how Ted got it wrong’.

So, there are some really good bones in what he has to say, but overall I dissected a few things and was really curious to get your opinion. But how did his life start out?

Theo: Well, he was privileged to be born into a middle class family in suburbia, and he had a family who really valued academic achievements and gave him lots of love and affection and put him on a path. He was very intelligent and scored really high in IQ tests and did well at school. Struggled a bit socially and we can go through different periods of his life where that gave him some trauma.

Kelley: Yeah, so let’s start there, like him as a baby because I didn’t know that part and I have some thoughts on that too, but I found that really fascinating.

Some key life moments

Separation From Parents As A Baby

Theo: Yeah, so this is a hard one because his mum tells this memory that’s really important to her that the baby Ted had hives and was very sick with it, so he needed to be in the hospital to be looked after, but because the nurses were short staffed and they couldn’t be looking after visitors coming in and out and making sure that the visitors were going where they need to go and stuff, they literally just did not at that period in time let visitors in to the baby ward.

So, he spent at least a week in hospital where he was getting seen to by nurses like changing and feeding him and stuff, but was not allowed to see his parents, he wasn’t allowed to even hear their voices and they said that he came out of that experience very emotionally withdrawn and rejecting them in terms of the emotional connection.

We have no way of knowing for sure if this had a lasting effect and it might just be a mothers worry that they did something wrong when their son was a baby and so at their most vulnerable.

Kelley: Well, I think she does use this as a way to try in her mind to explain some of this, but I did read a Washington post article where she had been talking about how:

“She can still see the photograph [mental picture] of her baby son, pinned down on his hospital bed. It offered what she now sees as a clue into how her oldest son grew into the troubled man he would become.”

He was terrified, spread-eagled so doctors could examine what they believed was a severe allergic reaction. His naked body was blotched with hives. His eyes, usually normal, were crossed in fear.”

So, you think about that time period and I think someone in the documentary series was saying that essentially “that if a baby is not able to bond with the mother” and Ted was only nine months old I think, then “there’s a chance of developing the psychopathy, so as a coping mechanism,” you know ‘I don’t feel anything, I don’t experience trauma’, but of course we know that’s not true, trauma is often the root of psychopathy forming in the first place.

So, that very well may have a small role to play here, but I mean it seems legitimate.

Theo: Yeah, definitely and I mean what’s interesting to think about is that that could have been traumatic for the parents as well, to have a baby rejecting you and it would take a skilled parent to not show that fear in their emotions with the baby and not have it create a lasting effect in your relationship with your child, every time the child rejects them as they get older, to not read into it that they’re withdrawing from them, and so there could be a shutting down there.

So, when you’re young it’s really important to form a secure attachment and if it’s not formed then it can be an insecure attachment in the form of avoidance or it can be insecure in the form of too clingy to their parents and rejecting the world, so there’s all kinds of ways that it could have manifested.

For example, there’s a really heart-wrenching psychological experiment researchers will do with parents and babies to in part to see to what degree the baby can form this emotionally secure attachment, and it’s that the parent will pull a completely blank straight face showing no emotion, and the baby will usually do everything it can to get the parents attention again, until it starts to look away because it can’t bare seeing the blank face anymore, to then trying to comfort themself by sucking their thumb, to finally when the parent re-engages emotionally, the baby usually crying out of stress relief and being reminded of the secure attachment available again.

So bringing that back to Ted, it must have been stressful for that week at least, having a rotation of nurses faces you don’t recognize just briefly engaging with him to feed and change him as a baby.

Kelley: Yeah and I do think that him growing up and from what I was learning about even just in primary school is that this was a super smart kid where there already feels like there’s the possibility of abandonment issues and a lack of trust, so I feel like what you’re gonna walk us through next is kind of Ted’s feeling of not belonging, not being like everyone else, it seems to be something that it can be traced back to that time in the hospital, the feeling of abandonment, not trusting you know he kind of already feels like an outsider and that’s also another kind of textbook description of how psychopathy forms.

Theo: Yeah or even just that it was a strained relationship with the parent, that the parent really wants to be attached, so as to never – in their mind – betray the baby again and to be able to have this really secure attachment, so being clingy and then if they ever saw any signs of Ted being problematic to people that they would play it down because they just really wanted to make sure that he was safe and developing okay, so in their mind they would justify some of the things they’d see as he just needs protection.

Kelley: I do think that it was the form of her making excuses for him, you know I think there was clear anger, there are certain stories that the brother David tells about you know some really jarring incidents that happened and I think there is that denial by at least the mother that it doesn’t have a deeper meaning and that she somehow is responsible for making him feel safe or I don’t know that could just be my opinion.

Theo: Yeah for sure and it’s just about teaching parents to know how to be open with their children, it’s problematic that she felt like she wasn’t a good parent, and it’s problematic that the kid maybe was picking up on that in a way, and so maybe he wasn’t developing a secure attachment, so I don’t know, it’s complicated.

Loneliness After Being Moved Forward A Year At School

So his parents were teaching him a lot, making sure that he was doing well at school and this was a source of pride for him to just focus all his mind on studying.

Then at some point the school just said we should put him forward a year because he’s obviously a lot further ahead than the pther kids and so he was skipped one year ahead and just went straight into another year above.

And, in his diaries or in interviews he always says that was really difficult for him, like an already socially awkward kid just not fitting into a year above him and so some alienation from society and the institutions that he was part of as a kid.

Psych Experiments For The CIA

So, moved forward a year in secondary school and then before he even finished school, he got accepted a year early into Harvard, the most prestigious school in the country, so he was arriving two years younger than most students in Harvard.

He was like having picnics on the grass on his own and just not really knowing how to make friends with people there. So, then he entered this psychological experiment with the most impressive psychology professor there, which wasn’t advertised as a psychology experiment, it was advertised as a place where you could debate professors and have your ideas received and reviewed. So he thought he was going to get a chance to have his ideas genuinely evaluated.

So he didn’t have many friends or any really strong friends at all at Harvard, but for the whole three years he was at Harvard he had these really intense sessions with professors which through his dedication to study, he really admired and valued them.

And they were testing to see how to play mind games with people in order to do advanced interrogations, it would later get used in Guantanimo Bay, they were studying how to break someone down and make them say what you want them to say, or make them say things you think they want to say deep down, but just madness. Basically the professors’ objective was to humiliate the student for the philosophy they held as most important to them.

Kelley: So, basically the intent is to make them question themselves on things that they feel they believe strongly.

And I mean part of me wants to know if his intention for you know being involved in the experiment in the first place was to maybe learn a little bit more about himself and his own social issues. And this ended up just compounding that and making it worse and adding to his feelings of humiliation or ineptitude which also then to me I found like a pattern that through his writing too that made me think of that.

But, do you think that this… well, I mean I don’t see how this could make a positive impact on a person, but I mean we have to study these things somehow, but he wrote a lot, he was super smart, he was so mathematically intelligent that it makes me feel a little nervous because I have a bad relationship with mathematics…

Theo: Yeah, he was excelling at maths and sciences because it was something you could do on your own and just really dedicate all your mind to. And he probably wasn’t reading political theory books, so he had some funny beliefs about, well to me, funny beliefs about primitivism and about how less less technology is good.

And he hadn’t yet decided that like we needed an anti-tech revolution or anything, maybe at this point he was against big cities and very systematized, atomized society, he liked the suburbia life that he came from and he didn’t like big metropolises.

Kelley: Something just sprung into my head and this is extremely personal, but I came from a home-schooling background and it was extremely oppressive, and then I got into college, I somehow was able to make the right score to get into college and that’s totally due to my older sister, but once I was there I cannot tell you…

I’m not going to draw a parallel between myself and Ted, but coming from somewhere where I had so much isolation, once I got to college, it was the most traumatic experience I think of my adult life because I had to suddenly have a roommate that I didn’t know who this person was, I didn’t know how to study for tests, I had only taken one test in my whole life, all of these things compounded around entering university for the first time that I think has exacerbated all of my personal anxieties.

And I feel like that is possibly a huge catalyst when you know you’re told that everybody’s social, you need to go out, you need to put yourself out there and let me tell you that’s one of the worst things I ever did for myself because I was like maybe you just don’t know what fun is, maybe you just need to put yourself in these uncomfortable situations because that’s what everybody else is doing.

And as somebody who’s an introvert it was not a fun period of life and it was constantly feeling inadequate in social situations, so I can sort of see a glimpse into the mind of someone who kind of wanted some normalcy but just couldn’t quite get there, I don’t know that just jumped in my head.

Theo: No, for sure, like he didn’t know whether he fitted in and he probably had the same feeling of wearing feeling like he was wearing different people’s clothing, like trying out different identities. So, with the professors, he would have been asking questions that maybe come from a naive place, like we’ve all just lived through 4 years of Trump where he would do things like suggest injecting bleach into your body at a news conference, so people have these weird ideas where they haven’t fully thought through the consequences. And he was probably connecting that to psychology and why he didn’t fit in, and why he felt alienated.

So, he would have been using these arguments to test them out with the professors and see what they thought and all that time he was just on a highly regimented program, where they’d pretend we agree with you for a bit and then we’re gonna tear you down, so yeah just not nice to say the least.

Kelley: I mean the whole idea of a university setting, it’s also jarring when you know I think a lot of his early ideas could have been formed in that moment, probably more strongly than others as far as everybody kind of looking like sheep, you know everybody does the same things, everybody’s a part of this system and one that he didn’t feel a part of and one that he maybe felt alienated from and started to resent. I think those ideas probably started to really solidify during this period.

Theo: Yeah and what friends he did have in university would say that during different periods of the experiment he would just never eat dinner with them or if they would try to sit down with him he would just be so angry with himself and the people around him that he’d just take himself off back to the room and spend as little time as around people as possible.

Sex Change Plans & First Desire To Kill (A Psychiatrist)

Theo: Ok, so next if you like we can talk about dates and romance, and how that affected his emotional development.

To start with there’s one example of him chatting to a woman in the university library and her giving him her number, but then he’d write in his diary that he couldn’t get up the nerve to call, so his defense mechanism for being so anxious, trying to call and not feeling like he was able to, was to chastise himself for spending so much time worrying about connecting ‘with some dumb woman’, so his feelings of inadequacy projected onto an identity class of less powerful people like women and later gay people.

Then he started to have sexual fantasies of becoming a woman, I think because he didn’t know how to have relationships with women, so he wanted to explore desires for women which he hadn’t had the space to learn to understand. I definitely don’t think it was out of any felt emergence that he was a woman. They’re called autoerotic fantasies, where you get turned on imaging how other people will view you in different situations, and it can be as common as when you’re imagining yourself in a situation where someone is admiring a specific item of clothing you’re wearing that make you feel confident.

So anyway, he made an appointment to go see the university psychologist and at the last minute decided he didn’t want to talk about having a sex change or his sexual fantasies.

And he writes in his diary that this is when the first desire to kill happened;

“I felt disgusted about what my uncontrolled sexual cravings had almost led me to do. And I felt humiliated, and I violently hated the psychiatrist. Just then there came a major turning point in my life. Like a Phoenix, I burst from the ashes of my despair to a glorious new hope. . . . So, I said to myself, why not really kill that psychiatrist and anyone else whom I hate. . . I will kill, but I will make at least some effort to avoid detection, so that I can kill again.”

So the psychology experiments for the CIA and this humiliating experience with the psychologist, turned into hateful resentment for a society that he felt had made him confused and depressed.

Then a desire to carefully plan his murders and pick targets he thought some people would intellectually admire him for picking, as in his eyes the evilest people deserving of fighting a guerrilla war against. Which could be seen as a way of getting the validation he didn’t get from friends as a child on his own terms, for being special and intelligent enough to have discovered all these connections and go after the worst offenders.

As well as a desire to rebel against social alienation and mediocrity, a fear of the harder task of finding meaning with others, that there’s no special meaning given to your life for just being you.

Kelley: And I think it’s interesting that he did write so much because I think there would be a lot of unanswered questions if we didn’t have a lot of his writing. And I think part of that confusion is… I think one of his neighbors or somebody in in the documentary had talked about how he just clearly hated women and I think it all comes back to that theme of inadequacy and self-loathing and those patterns that he seems to have turned on everybody else at this point in in his writings that I find very interesting.

Theo: Yeah, and we see that today with InCel (involuntarily celibate) terrorists driving their van into people and having this whole worldview they’ve built where they gather on places like 4chan and reddit, where there’s these ‘Chads and Stacies’ and how they’re oppressed because women aren’t traditional enough anymore, so yeah it’s a weird phenomenon.

Kelley: And a way of deflection, as well. So, I mean I’m always talking about mental health like any time that I can and growing up with someone who’s schizophrenic and extremely abusive it’s one of those things where you can see the pattern and you can see it worsening at a certain period of time in life, where there’s certain some traumatic event.

And just thinking about the person that I knew before and during and after it’s like if only that person had gotten the help that they needed, you know he seems to be such an intelligent guy with deep feeling, but extremely damaged. So, I think we as a society are getting a little bit smarter about catching these things and being a little bit more open and embracing of handling our issues with mental health and therapy and things of that nature.

Theo: Yeah definitely, if only people had felt able to be open about their mental health problems like this would this would have been a time when people it would have been like it would have been like the worst thing in the world to come out as having depression even. You would worry about your social standing among your neighbors, that maybe you wouldn’t be invited around for dinner parties.

As well, I’m jumping forwards a bit here, but he gave a letter to his brother that explained how he had thought about killing this other woman and his brother just thought it was like a psychological break, he thought it wasn’t serious. So there’s not enough understanding about mental health and the mental institutes and prisons I’d imagine were even worse back then, you would never want to do that to your brother, make the police aware and then put him through that system, if you don’t think he’s gonna be violent in the future, if you make that judgment, then it’s a scary thing to think with our past or even current system that you’d have to turn someone over to exist in this horrible prison system.

Kelley: Well, not just that but I do remember his brother David saying how his mother had told him the story of Ted as baby and how she had kind of put responsibility on his shoulders as well, to always look out for and take care of and protect his brother. And he was always just like ‘well yeah, I love him, why would I not’. So there is all of this enabling being done by his family.

And of course that is a time like both of my parents grew up in, where talking about mental health was taboo, which is why my mom has still been completely adamant about not admitting to anything and not seeing someone for help. It’s like this ultimate shame to have to admit that there’s an issue there, so then you have all these people around you enabling you, it’s kind of giving you free reign to keep going.

Theo: Yeah that’s really sad. So, yeah I mean the brothers had a really interesting relationship, the connection between siblings in general is something really unique, there was a weird case of sisters running in front of traffic that went viral and it was because they had schizophrenia and were spending lots of time around each other, confirming each other’s psychosis beliefs. And then there’s the case of the marathon bombers, where the older brother encouraged the younger brother into throwing his life away at a young age. So these are examples at the extreme fringes, but it just shows to me how powerful sibling relationships can be.

So Ted and his brother David would spend a lot of time with their dad out camping in the wilderness from a young age, and they’d been taught in bushcraft, so they saw survivng by their own wits as a really special experience, and would go off to camp on their own at a young age and eventually both build cabins, but at opposite ends of the country.

And then David started to settle down and not visit his cabin as much, but Ted’s idea was always to move move permanently off grid and he hoped that David would do that as well and would justify it for the same reasons of being anti-tech, but at some point their ideas split.

One interesting example of this was after he came back from Harvard David noticed this difference in Ted, where before they were bouncing ideas off each other and being very interested in what each other had to say, but that after the psych experiments maybe he was just very dismissive and very ruthless towards his ideas and putting them down.

So, I mean it’s a good thing there was a split in terms of David not following his path, but it would have been more ideal if Ted had not had followed David.

First Parcel Bomb

Kelley: Well tell me a little bit more about his early ideology and let us know how this whole manifesto ended up being published and then we can go into more of our own personal thoughts about his ideology.

Theo: Sure, so we’ve talked about how he valued wilderness and surviving on your own, and then how he justified his desire to kill after seeing the university psychiatrist about his sexual fantasies and feeling humiliated in that place, so connecting psychiatrists to the psychology experiments maybe and anyone else he hated, so institutions like university that he felt had betrayed him and what universities stand for in terms of intellectual and technological progress.

Then, he took on a professorship in order to earn enough money to go and build the cabin in Montana and he once he’d been living out there for a bit, he told someone in a prison letter that he wrote in his diary the reason he first planned to kill through building a parcel bomb, so he just talks about gong for a walk and wanting to be at peace in the wilderness and enjoying all the sounds of the forest, but then coming across a new road being build close to his cabin which enraged him, so he wrote in his diary:

“[…] and then I returned home as quickly as I could because I have something to do!”

and then he in the prison letter to he wrote:

“You can guess what it was that I had to do.”

Which was getting scrap from neighbors garages and building these pipe bombs in his cabin.

So, he’d gone from having sexual fantasies about becoming a woman to provide him some relief at the frustration at not being able to find intimacy with people, to writing about and realizing fantasies about killing people to provide him relief at people setting off his insecurities and making him angry, in this case not letting him find peace in the wilderness.

That was his first parcel bomb, and it’s really weird, it was found in the car-park of a University with the return address of an Engineering professor their, so maybe he had walked around the university wanting to enjoy soaking in the experience of the place he was taking revenge on, but why it was left in the car-park and why with a return address I don’t know, because obviously the person would know they didn’t send it, which is what happened, he reported it to campus police who opened it and received minor injuries.

And he would travel by coach out of the cabin in order to place these parcel bombs because I think he knew that the postal system could be tracked, so he was posting the package in random places around America they they wouldn’t be able to connect back to the cabin or him.

And in this first trip out of the cabin to place this bomb he visited his family home, as well to earn some money to sustain him living out in the cabin, he worked at the same foam-cutting factory where his father and brother worked.

Plan To Kill A Date Who Broke Off Their Romance

Theo: He briefly dated a female supervisor at the factory, but the woman cut off the relationship after a few dates. Ted responded by posting crude limericks about her on sticky-notes all around the factory walls.

His brother Dave, who worked part time as a night supervisor, confronted Ted in the storage room. It was a turning point in their relationship.

Dave remembered this as a really tragic event, where he said he remembered Ted ‘looking at him like a friend’, but that “by the time I got done speaking to him, he was all shut down.”

So, David was saying to him, if you put any more of these notes up you’re going to get fired.

And the next day, Ted walked up to the machine where Dave was working and posted another insulting note right in front of him and said

“Are you going to fire me now?” Ted defiantly asked.

Heartbroken, Dave replied, “Yes, Ted. Go home.”

Ted did, shutting himself in his room for days. Dave worried he had forced some sort of “psychological break.”

Ted eventually knocked on Dave’s bedroom door and handed him a letter. “I’ll show this to you, only on the condition that you don’t discuss this with me,” Ted said.

It was a note Ted intended to send to the woman, explaining himself. It was an apology of sorts, but it also contained the disturbing claim that Ted was so enraged that he had waited in the woman’s car with a knife, planning to mutilate her. In the end, Ted wrote, he couldn’t do it.

Attacking someone face to face proved too much for him.

Kelley: And once again I think that probably made him extremely angry, if that is true and if indeed he did sit in the back of her car and wait for her and then sort of chicken out, that would add more to the fuel to his fire of feeling inadequate and like he just couldn’t do anything, so I think that could also play a part.

But, I was going to ask you, so going forward from that point, what is the basis for the targets that he chose because of course we know about his overall arching mistrust of technology and the industrial revolution, so how did that play a role in who he chose to send bombs to?

Theo: Yeah, so I can tell you about what he talked about afterwards in prison, about what he’s propagandizing other people do now, and then I can backtrack to maybe what he was thinking then, like now he’s arguing that people should take down electricity grids and target the scientists at the cutting edge of like biotech & nanotech science and engineering because they’re leading progress in technology and so they’re symbols.

But, he talked in an interview about how at the beginning of his bombing campaign, he didn’t even know there were environmentalists out there taking direct action. So, I think he was thinking that he was picking really good targets that some people would intellectually admire him for or at least he admired himself for picking, but it wasn’t political for him, it was anti-technology, it was about destroying the technological system. For example, even though he might have desired to be a hermit in the forest, he knew that the furthest back we could reasonably get to would be a level of technology akin to what we had in the middle ages of people with swords and arrows.

So, that’s where he focused his critique and action, on desiring to destroy assembly lines & electricity grids to make it so people are forced into a situation of survival where it’s not reasonable to try and rebuild electricity grids and factories.

So the environmentalist journals like earth first monkey wrenching manuals and newsletters he’d find on his travels were in part a convenient post hoc rationalization. His early bombs, like the attempting to blow up a jetliner because of the frustration he felt with planes flying over his cabin were more akin to the plan he had to kill a romantic interest. They couldn’t in any way be rationally thought of as strategic targets even for the evil goal he propagandizes for now, and according to his pen pal John Zerzan he renounced that attack, for that reason.

It is rationalized by eco-fascists groups that he inspired, some of whom are now extinctionists and just leave bombs in public places with the desire to wipe out all humans for being ‘species traitors’ to other animals and the wild. And it’s interesting no note that Ted in prison has critiqued the sometimes random attacks of these groups and argued to the extent they are organizing with others should be working to bring about a primitivist revolution in going after riskier targets like electricity grid stations. But it’s almost as if these groups feel being able to do random attacks is what’s owed to them by being free and that to listen to Ted now would be helping serve his needs as a theorist from prison, to the detriment of their own desires.

And he does have a lot of similarities with these eco-fascists, like he’s talked about how he thinks primitivists should reach out to groups like al qaeda and see if any co-operation can be found there, which is similar to a white seperatist talking point, in that they can have their little backward mono-culture dictatorship over there, and we can have ours over here. And he’s acted as a stepping stone for left-anarchist groups to go from the far-left to the far-right.

Kelley: Well lead us up to because I have some choice things to to say about what I read of his writing that really struck a chord with me, but I was curious to see the timeline from there until he got caught and then what his demands were. I don’t want to jump the gun or anything, but over how many years did his bombing campaign last?

Theo: 17 years, yeah because he had a break for a long time, but yeah 17 years in total.

Kelley: So he did a relatively decent job at covering his tracks for a while, so what ended up being kind of the downfall of that.

Offer to stop bombing for newspapers publishing his manifesto

Theo: Yeah right, so for anyone who didn’t know, he offered to stop bombing if newspapers would publish his manifesto.

He’d already written papers to universities advocating this anti-tech philosophy under his real name, but the FBI were still chasing leads imagining that he was some kind of wood fetishist, not that he was this primitivist wanting to take down the leaders of technological progress.

But, he wanted a wider readership, so he made this offer to stop bombing if newspapers would print his manifesto. I don’t think it was a genuine offer, he had made a bomb after they’d already published it. So, I think the bomb making was his anger and frustration and that was always going to carry on, he wasn’t gonna be able to keep his word. So, I don’t know whether he even made the offer genuinely believing he would stop making bombs.

Anyway, he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying, well, this is his propagandizing, he’s putting on like a voice of a revolutionary. He says:

“We are getting tired of making bombs. It’s no fun having to spend all your evenings and weekends preparing dangerous mixtures, filing trigger mechanisms out of scraps of metal or searching the sierras for a place isolated enough to test a bomb.”

That’s him trying to mislead the investigation as well, like he would write letters to victims owning up to being the perpetrator, and dropped hints to throw the FBI off, for example pretending to be a person who hadn’t gone to university, but luckily the FBI saw through that and only helped their profile of him, that he was more likely university educated than not.

Kelley: And part of an actual movement, ‘we’re this group of people’.

Theo: Yeah, that’s a funny & sad irony because he was so alone. Anyway he said:

“So we offer a bargain. We have a long article, between 29,000 and 37,000 words, that we want to have published. If you can get it published according to our requirements we will permanently desist from terrorist activities.”


Theo: And that led to his arrest because as a result his brother recognized his writing in the manifesto, and of course his borther knew where he was because he had helped build his cabin.

Like we talked about earlier he lived a life close to nature himself, but wasn’t fundamentalist about it in the way Ted was and so Ted had written lots of ranting letters to him about his wife having changed him and how he felt betrayed by that. He’d also written lots of diaries which were at his parents home and an earlier draft of the manifesto, so as soon as the FBI profiler got that, they knew they had the right person. Through a new science of linguistic comparison.

Contents of the manifesto

Theo: Shall we talk a bit about what manifesting contained?

Kelley: Yeah, that would be great.

Theo: So, it starts with “the industrial society and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race” and then that pretty much is the motto of the whole essay.

It lays very detailed blame on technology for destroying human scale communities,

So, referring to how our psychology is still linked to hunter-gatherer times, where a tribe would maybe split into bands of 150 people because it was the only way we could maintain healthy relationships with all those people.

He contends the Industrial Revolution harmed the human race by developing into a sociopolitical order that subjugates human needs beneath its own. This system, he wrote, destroys nature and suppresses individual freedom. In short, humans adapt to machines rather than vice versa, resulting in a society hostile to human potential.

He indicts technological progress with the destruction of small human communities and rise of uninhabitable cities controlled by an unaccountable state. He contends that this relentless technological progress will not dissipate on its own because individual technological advancements are seen as good despite the sum effects of this progress. Kaczynski describes modern society as defending this order against dissent, in which individuals are adjusted to fit the system and those outside it are seen as bad. This tendency, he says, gives rise to expansive police powers, mind-numbing mass media, and indiscriminate promotion of drugs. He criticizes both big government and big business as the ineluctable result of industrialization, and holds scientists and “technophiles” responsible for recklessly pursuing power through technological advancements.

He argues that this industrialized system’s collapse will be devastating and that quickening the collapse will mitigate the devastation’s impact. He justifies the trade-offs that come with losing industrial society as being worth the cost. Kaczynski’s ideal revolution seeks not to overthrow the government but the economic and technological foundation of modern society. He seeks to destroy existing society and protect the wilderness, the antithesis of technology.

Kelley: Yeah, I find it super interesting because for instance in the documentary series there’s a gentleman I think he was some kind of scholar or professor who was talking about how if you were reading it on its own it’s not necessarily going to be something that’s going to start shocking you immediately, there’s some really good points being made. But, I got through the first three pages and had so many notes I was like well I can’t just dissect this whole thing because there’s just not enough time, but I do I agree with the gentleman that there are some really good points that are made and valid points that if any other individual were making them wouldn’t seem shocking.

So, in a sense I agree with his sense of urgency to act when he’s talking about how technology is speeding up the process of the destruction of the natural world around us. For instance, in his introduction he articulated, pretty intelligently I think, that “technology has greatly increased the life expectancy of those of us who live in advanced countries, but they have destabilized society, made life unfulfilling, subjected human beings to indignities, led to widespread psychological suffering” and then he also said “it will certainly subject human being to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world.”

All true, all very true okay, but what I start to have problems with in my opposition to that would be that technology is going to continue to progress, it’s progressing extremely quickly and I think that we have to turn our attention to utilizing technology to turn some of these things around and to help salvage our planet because we’ve come this far, no one is just going to go back to that monastic lifestyle and drop all of technology and just live off the grid, we already know that there’s just no way that that’s gonna really happen, so I don’t know what you think about that?

Theo: Yeah, well the world could only possibly sustain a 100 million people as living as hunter-gatherers and we’re at seven, almost eight billion now, so it’s an argument for genocide basically, but, yeah technology is this pandora’s box, you can try to force one country not to have some technology, but if there’s no inherent harm to it, and other countries are using it to out-compete them in efficiency, democracies are going to cave to that pressure, so I think better to regulate it, than try force no one to use it.

So, primitivists can have lots of good critiques about psychology and social alienation, and it can be very tantalizing because it’s this all encompassing simple principle that you can apply to all things, but then they apply that critique even to every single other strategy of moving away from this status quo, so they’re incredibly self-destructive to every political movement they’re a part of because they will critique even the most ardently principled far-left utopian as not being principled enough in desiring to set aside ‘only’ 50% of the planet for wildlife habitat or something, and ‘only’ not allowing cars within cities. They’ll critique that as still oppressive towards people’s individual freedom, imagining that anyone who would even want to live a low-tech lifestyle is indoctrinated.

So, yeah I see lots of holes in the argument for primitivism, for instance ‘Kaczynski’ says that primitive man can deal with the harsh realities of primitive life stoically, but there’s no reason why we can’t just deal with technology stoically and so, find ways of having a balance between living a low-impact lifestyle, but also being able to pour our passions into a technical job if we if we desire to do it and if it’s a democratically organised workers co-op with low work-hours, etc.

Kelley: Well I think one thing that really strikes me is, well, I try my best to stay away from politics because most people don’t love my politics, but when he says that; “this is not to be a political revolution, its object will be to overthrow not governments, but the economic and technological basis of the present society.” To me, unfortunately I think he’s viewing this from a perspective that’s purely from the 90s and before because if you look at today’s climate and everything in this current stage of history we find ourselves enmeshed in both a political and economic related revolution.

At least here in the states anyway and I’m sure everywhere big business interests invest so much money in buying our politicians, just look at the whole Joe Mansion scandal with the oil industry recently, all that news is coming out, but just knowing that it’s so enmeshed that you really can’t separate the two, and so any revolution in my head would have to look like a complete dismantling of the way money is allowed to be used in government decision making.

So, there’s too much corruption for us all as citizens to be able to go live lifestyles like he was living, it’s still not going to stop corporations, it’s not going to stop people from working for these corporations. Kaczynski believes that a violent war should be waged against big industry and technology, but I see the root of much-needed change needing to be made in our political system first, taking the big money out of politics, the bribery, lobbying and corporate donations, etc. That’s where we should be focusing our energies and motivations to change it, instead of becoming angry withdrawn and anti-social. There’s a way to get our voices out there to make change happen, but the system that we’re in right now it’s making too many people comfortable at the top that it’s not going to change if you send bombs to people, it’s just going to solidify that stronger for them.

Theo: Yeah, it’s a recipe for provoking fear in even the working class, and fear leads people to want protection and so will even desire more punitive policing.

So yeah, there’s all kinds of like philosophical justifications that people will like fall into to think this way, like for Ted it was that the longer you leave technology developing, the worse the collapse will be when it comes, so, if the collapse is inevitable, you need to provoke it to happen sooner as a kind of altruistic act, so ends justifying the means logic.

But, yeah I just see that causing more chaos, so more environmental inefficiency and then and even if you could bring down electricity grids worldwide, industrial revolutions happening again and causing even worse environmental problems.

Kelley: Well, one last thing that just stuck out to me as an overall theme to his writing is how he views leftists as emasculated, self-loathing pansies and to me therein lies the danger of lumping all of the radical left into the same category because there’s so many different tendencies, it’s like a web.

It’s something that we do very well as a society, we like to put people in boxes and groups, and categorize them all as the same thing and I think he hits correctly identifies important problems within the left, and he knows it so well but more because it’s a reflection of his own feelings of inferiority towards himself.

So when he says:

By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits; low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have some such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

All of that just seems like you’re just taking a quick look at yourself and writing it down because I think people who tend to be damaged in this way have a difficult time of seeing that within themselves, but everybody else has that problem.

I think though that some of it does ring true and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the manifesto is that I see kind of the opposite coming out and it’s giving me a lot of hope for the future, which you can see in people like Bernie Sanders or AOC or Rasheeda Talib, among many, many others I see recently who have a strong and passionate voice and are unyielding to corporate greed and these powers that be. They’re finally putting their their money where their mouth is and that’s important, we need more people like that to be filling up our government spaces, but you know that doesn’t seem to be just a load of self-loathing pansy who think they have to be politically correct you know? I think you have on both sides irritating things that people tend to fall back on and political correctness on the left, you know everybody has to be validated, but I do think it’s one of those things where he may have a slight point there, but I’m a little curious about where he would come down currently about what’s happening in the world, or at least the united states in the past year to four years, like where would he be in all of this, I have a few thoughts but what do you what do you think?

Theo: Yeah I mean I just think far-right, I mean it’s a weird one, fascism is this psychology of hate, it’s not theory-based, have you heard of atom-waffen division, it’s this weird neo-nazi terror group who want to attack nuclear power stations in order to cause enough chaos in the world to have everything go to shit, so that can build up their new thousand year Reich from the ashes they really value Kaczynski because they’re envisioning this primitive life that they’ll have to lead to which will refine them in such a way that they’ll be the best ones to lead people out of the chaos they created.

And that’s very similar to many primitivists, it’s this contempt for the disabled and the people that will die in a primitive world. So, they both have the same founding premise that there are this large segment of the population who are holding back another segment, they just focus on scape goating different groups.

As for the ‘sensative left’ accusation, that can be harmful, but I’m also seeing that be pushed back against with the so called ‘dirtbag left’ using comedy in debates as a weapon again. Also, as well as no bullshit socialist politicians, the more inter-connected we get, the more we’re getting news from and travelling internationally, the more brave campaigners internationally are feeding into our politics on the left. So, I’d like to see Ted try to form an argument critiquing the Internationalists who went out to fight with the Kurds against ISIS.

Ethical justifications for guerrilla war

Kelley: I can’t help but think about… there’s something that I saw that you had written that made me think in this direction… you were talking about how if someone had been able to assassinate Hitler early on, it goes into that… do you want to explain that thought that you had?

Theo: Yeah, so depending on different time periods you live in, people can be more or less sympathetic to different direct actions, so for instance, I think most people would agree that anyone who took it upon themselves to assassinate Hitler a day before the break out of WW2 would be seen as committing an ethical act, no matter who follows, because throwing a wrench into the cult of personality spell built around Hitler would be a significant set back for the fascist state’s grip over the people. And given all the evidence pointing to the inevitability of war, such an act could easily be seen as a necessary preemptive act.

So, yeah there’s a whole spectrum of justifications for direct action going from civil disobedience, to revolutionary direct action and sometimes it is a slippery slope, where there’s groups who have bought into like some dire election tactics here and then because of Kaczynski’s writing have begun to feel fine being a terroristic force, because maybe they think the state is terrorizing people like in Guantanamo Bay like or even going back to Vietnam, dropping white phosphorus on villages, so saying if the state is going to be this terrorizing force against people, then people should be allowed to act as a terrorizing force back against those state actors.

But, so long as there are ways to inspire people to your cause during democratic peacetime, I think you have stick to those non-violent tactics, as soon as you start to see people as the problem, instead of the systems that create people, then you’ve gone over to the right, in that you think the only solution is to hurt one group of people, to save another.

Kelley: Yeah, and when I think about what the practical reality of Ted’s vision would be like if it existed and the closest thing that my mind can think of is a dictatorship much like North Korea, where everything is shut down, we don’t know what’s going on, there’s a certain stringent story that everybody is being told and everything is highly regulated in that you’re not allowed to be seen using advanced technology, so to me I think it correlates a little bit with North Korea.

And I’ve read that we have people like spies or military in place there, that if we so desired we could take out Kim Jong-Un. So, with that in mind, it’s like well everybody wants to ask why don’t you do it right now? But you know, in addition to all of the complexities that that would kind of kick off, even if that is the right thing to do, I mean you’ve got people starving, you have people you know being mass murdered, it’s almost like another holocaust happening, but we just don’t know the extent of it. I’m sure our government does know, but it’s just so locked down, I think one thing that we can’t disregard is the fact that the US specifically, we’re not going to act upon a moral imperative and I’m not trying to sound super depressing here, but we’re not going to act on a moral imperative of bringing down oppressive dictatorships due to the fact that taking action would save lives, it’s gonna be more of an economic thing. If they don’t have oil, it’s not something we care about, so we like to use this moral imperative ‘well we had to invade Iraq because of blank blank’, no it’s it comes down to middle east equals oil, and we want that oil, so what does he have to say that’s going to explain all of that, that I think our society is forever driven by not just technology but by money and what we can get out of it.

Theo: Yeah and the CIA had a report where they advocated that we put the Baathist party back back in power after we’d taken over, their advice was that the problem with the Baath party wasn’t that it was a horrible, authoritarian regime, it was that Saddam Hussein wasn’t doing what America wanted them to do, so remove Saddam, but keep all the people who carried out his evil commands in power.

So, Ted is cheer-leading ISIS and the kind of reaction that comes as a result of these imperial blunders, but it’s not cheer on a useful opposition to America for their own people, who can create a better society, it’s cheer just chaos in hopes of getting back to primitive hunter-gatherer life.

Kelley: That’s what it seems like to me and that’s where my confusion lies because it’s hard to imagine that if chaos were allowed to just tear everything down, then somehow we’d get back to a better way of living, it just sounds like a dystopian nightmare. I’d rather live in the walking dead than that.

Theo: Yeah, it’s weird, people will get bought into this ideology by getting scared of the news and being sure that a collapse will come and it’ll just be inevitable anyway and so they need to prepare and they need to encourage other people to hold this philosophy, and hold this like idea of needing to get ready to defend their area from starving masses.

Theory vs. Action

Theo: For Kaczynski, how he rationalizes it is he definitely didn’t like mass movements, he had a disgust for the university elite’s ideology disconnected from the world. Had the desire to share with the world some useful philosophical theory and some not so useful action killing various people to do with technology, but because his childhood was about being forced to conform to an ideal of academic success at the expense of mental health and community, he thought he was only one of few people who had woken up to the downside of this conformity, so no mass movement of people breaking with the system was possible.

But I think that idea in itself reveals a naivety about human potential and a naive optimism about an elite underclass who will always be willing enough to risk their lives to tear down industrial society, to even stop it re-emerging if it ever could be destroyed.

To an extent social movement membership is tied to events which are hard to predict, like the children who grew up in the formerly fascist countries after WW2 formed the most active left wing militant movements, which can be understood to be in part an anger at their parents generation for buying into fascism. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just about learning those lessons, to counsel people to take only the actions which are ethical and the consequences they are comfortable living with, to make the movement as sustainable as possible.

And obviously sometimes getting caught isn’t a total loss to the movement, the publicity received for a worthwhile act of civil disobedience, like for a Nelson Mandela can be a net gain, but it does have to be a struggle people can sympathize with.

I just don’t see people being inspired by primitivist terror attacks ever catching on as this even minor movement.

Primitivists, Conspiracists & The Fascist Creep

Kelley: And with primitivists in general, what do you think is the most important thing for people to know about his beliefs in that department.

Theo: Well, just that it’s a really bad rabbit hole to get down, like you get techno-skeptics and conspiracists on all sides of the political spectrum, and you can even get centrists conspiracy theorists who just think everything would be fine and we could go back to the normal centrist status quo, if only it wasn’t for this big tech shadow government.

But to the extent there are these irrational rabbit holes people can fall down anywhere on the political spectrum, they can act as a kind of wormhole which fast tracks people to diametrically opposite political positions.

So how this can happen on the far-left is if you’re struggling with the contradictions of having say a personal trauma which leads you to primitivism plus a kind of far-leftism which isn’t inherently against people finding value in highly technical work. So, you might be worried that you could be overthrowing the current government, but will still be socially alienated from a demeaning factory work job, that is just slightly more democratic. And then from that point, find more common cause with anarcho-capitalists for just desiring to hoard what they can and kill anyone who comes onto their property, or fascists who want to hoard all the wealth for white people say.

So yeah and that’s definitely happened with the Unabomber inspiring groups to jump from left to fascist far right terrorists.


Kelley: Well before we talk about prison reform real quick, I do want to just say, I see a lot of what he talks about through here, as stuff that I saw as pretty accepted thought processes for a lot of the families that I grew up with in the home-schooling community. Where they became more isolationist, and just had a total mistrust of the government, and the whole concept of the quiverful movement I grew up in where it’s about having as many kids as possible to raise up for god’s army.

And the whole implication behind that is what he’s talking about is to rise up, and a lot of people don’t see the evangelical right as being a big problem, but they’ve gotten their roots in deep and when you have people who are living off the grid. I know a family that had like 12 kids and the mom never went to the hospital for any of the kids, they were all born without birth certificates, one of them is grown up now and he was talking about that process and it was just incredible to me that this kind of extremism and I feel like his words are kind of precursors to everything I saw and their fear of y2k and the bunkers, and I’m like this is insanity, they’re preparing for something and nobody who would meet these families would think these people have a bunker and they’re getting ready for this weird war or for the apocalypse or whatever.

It’s a strange thing once you’ve been around people of that extremism, to ignore it and to discount it in any way because I see it as being still pretty strong and I’m just surprised that well I’m really lucky that I got out of it but there’s just a shocking amount of people who I know of who this would speak to really deeply, like they would really connect with these ideas.

Theo: Yeah there is that really strong us versus them in some parts of the world, especially with religion, kids growing up with the fear that even doubting your own community would be an insult to god. It’s a hard one, like we really need more auditors checking kids are learning to a high standard if they’re being home-schooled and are not just being indoctrinated. But, also just leading by example in forming home-schooling networks and meeting other families at gatherings where other parents can hopefully be inspired by how emotionally and intellectually developed your kids are and what’s working for you.

What’s at the root of a desire for a primitive way of life is often a desire for a more innocent time in one’s childhood,

Some activities connecting you to feelings you had as a child can be absolutely essential though, like the joy of experimentation where you can more easily enjoy the wonder of a forest by making up which path you’ll take as you go along.

Part of recruiting people to our political side on environmental protest sites, was turning the camp into an action playground with low down walkways for people to practice on, for people to get in touch with their younger/animal self again.

Prison Reform

Kelley: OK, so yeah I’ve talked about prison reform before on our podcast and it’s something I feel really strongly about, so I mean it’s not the least important thing we’re talking about, even though it is sort of the last thing we are covering, but what are your thoughts about how this story kind of plays into that theme.

Theo: Yeah, so I mean I thought it might be interesting to end on where he is at the end of his life, to just think about how he’s still alive, he’s still where he is now and question what his life is like?

He said a really interesting thing in an interview which was that he worries that he will acclimatize to prison life and it will just become his new normal. And I wonder, I would love to see like psychological evaluations on him in prison and over the years and whether he has found more peace of mind or not.

So, he wanted to be a hermit, who could read a lot of books undisturbed in a very small 1 room cabin and take short breaks to bathe in the beauty of the forest. Now he had a perfectionist mindset about desiring to find mental well-being in the forest, which was never being disturbed by other people. So it’s interesting to note that short of buying vast acres of wildlife habitat for him, guarding it so no one can get in and not letting planes fly over head, we’ve pretty much helped him achieve the next best thing in a prison cell as far as he is a manifestation of his traumas.

The same is true for violent people who get to extort and be violent with other prison inmates without much consequence.

And I think that presents a really interesting problem for conservatives who like to think prison is retribution, because sometimes prison can be what the traumatized person desires, so they don’t have to wrestle with as much choice. And that although that may only be true of a minority of people, it can be reflective of emotional states of mind within the majority of us.

So the only real solution for me is not to be satisfied with giving traumatized people to an extent emotionally what they want, but to heal the trauma and learned patterns of behavior that lead them to that point in their life.

Kelley: I like that you put it that way because in my mind what I’ve just been seeing so much of and learning about at least the US incarceration system is that most people see it as a punishment whereas the whole idea of prison is supposed to be reforming people and putting them in a place where when they are released they’re not going to go back and continue on that same path that there’s going to be other options, but we’ve done it in a way where it’s not about that anymore it’s about purely just putting someone away, punishing them and like ‘you get what you’re deserved’ and then that doesn’t help the recidivism.

How they’re pretty much set on a path to just repeat rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat and we don’t give any thought towards their mental health or you know really using this as an opportunity to impact. Some people of course are so violent or just so far gone that they’re not really somebody who’s ever gonna live in society again, like there’s certain things that I understand can’t happen, but it is such a problem and there is such an issue with even prisoners rights, we’re seeing that right now with covid, all these stories coming out now about there not being heat or people having heat strokes in the summertime.

I think there’s like a prison in Texas that doesn’t have any air conditioning and the warden sees it as a ‘well this is what you deserve’ even though they could afford to do it. So, we’re just treating them as less than human beings, so what do we expect in return, you’re kind of pushing them continuously further in the direction that brought them there in the first place and that’s a huge issue that I don’t think we like to talk about.

Theo: Yeah, slavery is still legal in in the constitution for incarcerated people, which tells you everything about what status we treat these people as, people are pressured into work in prison which pays a lot of money because they can undercut the market because they can get their products made so cheaply.

So, yeah there’s really simple holes in people’s arguments when they think like even for liberals who think we’re sorting out the trauma in temporarily holding them in prisons, like yeah okay, you’ve solved temporarily them not hurting as many people, but are you actually going to do anything to heal the trauma? Are you going to put any therapeutic measures in place as preventative measures or not because your economy can’t see the short-term benefit in helping people, but if you actually look long-term you prevent way more crime and create a more healthy robust society because you actually get people on a good path.

Kelley: One thing I just urge everybody to watch and think about and digest is the HBO series called ‘The Night Of’ by J Gandolfini, it was the last thing he produced before he died, but it’s basically about this guy who’s a taxi cab driver and an immigrant from the middle east who ends up taking the cab out for a night trying to impress a girl, they both take drugs and he ends up being accused of her murder, and he has no idea if he did it, the whole time you’re not sure, but it takes you on a journey through the prison system and how it turns somebody who possibly was not guilty of this crime into worse than he was before and just how this prison system and our incarceration system is not meant to rehabilitate or to fix what’s going on.

It’s mainly to just shove somebody somewhere and it’s like you’re in here forever or you know if you do get out you’ll most likely repeat again, but it just blew my mind that you know our system is like that, where before a person’s even necessarily been deemed guilty they can be put away in that form or fashion and you see this evolution of this guy that seems pretty likable becomes something that’s not likable and even if he ends up being completely exonerated in the end his life is ruined, his life is done.

Theo: Yeah its in auch desperate need of regulation. America is funny because it’s really invested in court room dramas because I think politics is so money bought already, so in watching court cases, they think they’re getting more of a fair and balanced situation where all their facts are being presented, but yeah the system is still rife with people getting pressured into plea deals because they don’t think they can afford a decent lawyer to defend their case and lots of people spending years in prison crimes they didn’t commit.

What lessons can we learn about how to do activism better?

Kelley: Well, we we’ve talked about a lot of things today, everything needs to be fixed, well as a way to end, how would you recommend people kind of take what we talked about today and maybe hopefully turn it into something a little bit more positive or educational?

Theo: In terms of campaigning?

Kelley: Or anything anything the average person can do to make a difference in their own part because that’s the thing it’s like we have lots of people shouting, but we need to make sure that we as individuals are you know really supporting the causes that we find important and not just talking about them, we can talk all day, but how do people get involved in some positive stuff.

Theo: Well, the organization I love the most is food not bombs, but just any dual power campaigns where you’re seeing a problem in your environment, for instance it can be food deserts, where the nearest shop that people have to buy their food if they need to walk there is a garage which only has candy bars, rice and lots of processed food that’s not good for you, no fresh vegetables or fruit.

So, you see a situation like that where the neighborhood is constantly walking back and forth to the shop because it’s easy and not getting very good food and you put up urban gorilla gardens and greenhouses, if you search edible and greater gardeners, you can try and find groups in your area already.

Just try and connect to some groups in your region where you’re having this effect of meeting the needs of the poorest people and then either that becomes a really beautiful thing and you’re swapping seeds and helping each other out or in part it it shames the leaders of the state or local council into seeing that they are not providing for this area.

So, through your publicity, through your advocacy you’re showing them that they’re not meeting people’s needs and then you can organize that mass of people around voting in more left libertarian candidates that are willing to put funding into these under-served neighborhoods that will help everyone out because they’ll become more educated, become more skilled and live better lives and contribute more to the world.

Kelley: I agree completely and it reminds me of Charles Booker’s campaign to unseat Rand Paul where I’m from in Kentucky and I saw his campaign ad where he’s talking about these under-served communities and I want to see more of these people in places of power who care about their communities and know they come from these under-served areas and they know what suffering means and they’re willing to fight for what we as a you know general collective people need versus what we’re seeing right now.

And I think the whole lesson to be learned from any story like this is that there is a lesson to be learned and it’s something that we should take and not just listen and consume, we need to start putting some real action behind things, so if you do feel any kind of urgency in helping the environment or helping people around you I think that that’s something I take comfort in is that people can still care about people and our environment and that’s where we each have a role in our responsibility to play, but Theo I know you’re a big activist and thank you for what you do.

Theo: Well, your channel’s amazing advocacy, like it’s really inspiring to listen to your expertise in child psychology and where home-schooling culture can be improved.

Kelley: Yeah, I mean there’s stuff everybody can do, we can’t save the world on our own, but we can do stuff on our own to support people who can get that done. So, in whatever way you can, whether you can donate, whether you can spend some time physically volunteering, there’s stuff that all of us can do, so we just have to find our form of activism that we can really invest some time and energy into.

Theo: Actually on that, I sent my book to to Dawn Botkins, the person that Aileen sent all those letters to who we talked about in the last episode. So, that’s something that she could do from home which was just mental health support of a prisoner going through a tough time and she did an amazing job, she was a great friend, so I’m glad I got to organize those memories into the story of her life and hopefully that brightened up her day.

Kelley: That’s fantastic, and remind me of the title of of the book.

Theo: The Unfinished Autobiography of Aileen Wuornos.

Kelley: Awesome, we can all make a difference in whatever way we can. So, thank you for walking me through that case today.

Extra Details We Didn’t Have Time To Cover

More Details About The First Parcel Bomb

Kaczynski’s first mail bomb was directed at Buckley Crist, a professor of materials engineering at Northwestern University. On May 25, 1978, a package bearing Crist’s return address was found in a parking lot at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The package was “returned” to Crist, who was suspicious because he had not sent it, so he contacted campus police. Officer Terry Marker opened the package, which exploded and caused minor injuries.

In answer to a letter sent in to him asking ‘how/when did he decide to bomb people?’ Kaczynski answered:

It would take too much time to give a complete answer to the last part of your ninth question, but I will give you a partial answer by quoting what I wrote for my journal on August 14, 1983:

“The fifth of August I began a hike to the east. I got to my hidden camp that I have in a gulch beyond what I call “Diagonal Gulch.” I stayed there through the following day, August 6. I felt the peace of the forest there. But there are few huckleberries there, and though there are deer, there is very little small game. Furthermore, it had been a long time since I had seen the beautiful and isolated plateau where the various branches of Trout Creek originate. So I decided to take off for that area on the 7th of August. A little after crossing the roads in the neighborhood of Crater Mountain I began to hear chain saws; the sound seemed to be coming from the upper reaches of Roaster Bill Creek. I assumed they were cutting trees; I didn’t like it but I thought I would be able to avoid such things when I got onto the plateau. Walking across the hillsides on my way there, I saw down below me a new road that had not been there previously, and that appeared to cross one of the ridges that close in Stemple Creek. This made me feel a little sick. Nevertheless, I went on to the plateau. What I found there broke my heart. The plateau was criss-crossed with new roads, broad and well-made for roads of that kind. The plateau is ruined forever. The only thing that could save it now would be the collapse of the technological society. I couldn’t bear it. That was the best and most beautiful and isolated place around here and I have wonderful memories of it.

One road passed within a couple of hundred feet of a lovely spot where I camped for a long time a few years ago and passed many happy hours. Full of grief and rage I went back and camped by South Fork Humbug Creek.

The next day I started for my home cabin. My route took me past a beautiful spot, a favorite place of mine where there was a spring of pure water that could safely be drunk without boiling. I stopped and said a kind of prayer to the spirit of the spring. It was a prayer in which I swore that I would take revenge for what was being done to the forest.”

Relief At Being Able To Kill People With His Bombs

In 1979, a bomb was placed in the cargo hold of American Airlines Flight 444, a Boeing 727 flying from Chicago to Washington, D.C. A faulty timing mechanism prevented the bomb from exploding, but it released smoke, which caused the pilots to carry out an emergency landing. Authorities said it had enough power to “obliterate the plane” had it exploded. Kaczynski sent his next bomb to Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines.

This was done simply due to planes flying over his cabin bothering his peace.

These first few attacks against Universities and Airlines was how he got the name UnAbomber.

He was using match heads and other scraps he could find in people’s garages while they were out. So as he was still learning he wasn’t able to make any lethal bombs. He wrote in his diary that he wished he could get his hands on some dynamite.

After he read news of managing to injure an airline executive, he wrote in his diary “I feel better, I’m still plenty angry, I’m now able to strike back.”

After reading in a newspaper that his first murder victim, computer salesman Scrutton, had been “blown to bits,” Kaczynski wrote in his journal, “Excellent. Humane way to eliminate somebody. He probably never felt a thing. $25,000 reward offered. Rather flattering.”


Told lawyers they could adopt any defence they like other than an insanity defence. And they ran only the insanity defence. So fearing having his bombings labeled the work of an insane man and potentially having to take anti-psychotic drugs which might change him, first he attempted suicide, then he accepted a plea deal. A year after the sentencing he said death would be preferable to life, but the reason he stopped the first attempted suicide was fear of just becoming brain damaged.

Further Reading

General Resources

Effect on the left-wing

Individualists Tending toward the Wild (ex-leftist, eco-fascist terror group inspired by the Unabomber)

Effect on the right-wing

Ted Kaczynskis’ Writing


Key Life Events

Fiction Analogy

Misc. Letters

Misc. Theory